Seattle officials look to restrict urban pot farms

Apr 25, 2013

Seattle's elected officials are moving to make sure sprawling marijuana farms don’t take over the city’s industrial areas, though it’s not clear whether growers would want to locate in the city at all.

Just who actually gets licensed to grow marijuana will be up to the state. But Seattle City Council members say any Seattle grower will likely end up in one of the industrial areas along the Duwamish corridor or Interbay.

A new zoning plan would limit those urban pot farms to less than 10,000 square feet—a bit smaller than the average Rite-Aid. That sounds awfully cramped to advocate Philip Dawdy, who pushed council members at a public hearing to increase the limits.

“People just need more room in order to grow to meet the demand that is going to be there. And if the city does not allow for this is that industrial zone, these projects will go elsewhere. They will go out of the city and take hundreds of jobs with them,” Dawdy said.

Council members are balancing those jobs against the concern that large pot farms could drive up the cost of industrial land.

Technically, marijuana farms would be able to open up in commercial zones or even downtown with no size limits whatsoever. But Newell Aldrich, a staffer for council member Nick Licata, says as a practical matter that would be almost impossible. Restrictions in state law and the price of real estate mean it likely wouldn’t pencil out as a marijuana farmstead.

Council members face the task of reconciling a convoluted zoning code with the new state law, the work-in-progress rules that go along with it and the world of quasi-legal medical marijuana. The complications mean the proposed zoning ordinance is likely to change before the council votes on it.