Canna West Seattle Wants to Be the Friendly Neighborhood Pot Shop


Southwest Seattle (West Seattle and Delridge combined) has a population of more than 85,000 yet there is only a single cannabis retail store located there. Meanwhile King County's zoning segregation of such stores has put 10 state licensees in White Center just to the south, an area with less than 25% of Southwest Seattle.

Down Constantine, who lives in West Seattle, stated ironically recently that King County officials carefully analyzed policy issues related to marijuana legalization and principles to guide their work that included minimizing disproportionate siting and neighborhood impacts and avoiding multiple businesses in close proximity together. (See below for the entire excerpt of his defense of the county's segregated zoning decision-making process.)

Well, it hasn't turned out that way. Soon, 6 of the 10 licensees will be open in White Center and Top Hat, now that Origins Cannabis has moved its operation in Seattle from S Roxbury Street closer to the Alaska Junction in West Seattle. That makes its second location -- in White Center two blocks south of its former Seattle store a viable spot to open for business. There are already 5 retail marijuana stores open in Skyway. (Note that the 1,000 foot buffer Executive Constantine cites between marijuana stores below became law in August, long after all 15 licensees in White Center and Skyway became eligible to be grandfathered in much more dense clusters that were allowed under the county's prior land use regulations.)

It's not surprising that all 10 open stores in unincorporated King County, and 5 more remaining to open, are now located in White Center and Skyway. King County zoning segregates marijuana stores into only two business zones--Regional Business and Community Business. These zones are concentrated in White Center and Skyway as the last two remaining developed urban unincorporated areas.

Meanwhile, the more than 200,000 residents of unincorporated King County that live on or east of the urban growth boundary need not be concerned about pot stores opening in their neighborhood any time soon because King County prohibits these stores in Neighborhood Business zones which are the norm there.

King County under Dow's leadership has segregated pot stores into the most diverse communities in the unincorporated county, while prohibiting them in white-majority areas. (Unincorporated King County is estimated to be approximately 70% white overall, while White Center and Skyway are estimated to be 36% and 29% white, respectively.

So much for equity and social justice in King County's stewardship of this brand-new industry ...

Dow's explanation of the county's retail marijuana zoning policies:

"Immediately after passage of Initiative 502, I convened an interbranch team to analyze the many policy issues surrounding legalization. This team included staff from Executive agencies, Public Health, and the County Council, along with representatives from the Sheriff’s and Prosecuting Attorney’s offices. One of the team’s first tasks was to establish shared principles to guide its work. These included minimizing disproportionate siting and neighborhood impacts, and avoiding siting of multiple businesses in close proximity to one another.

"The work of this team informed the development of my initial proposed marijuana zoning, which allowed retail stores in the County’s few remaining commercial zones. These zones are located in White Center and Skyway, but also in Fairwood and Briarwood, and in unincorporated areas near Duvall and Federal Way.

"When it became clear that the private market was focusing development of retail shops in White Center and Skyway, I proposed an ordinance to address concentration impacts by requiring a 1000 foot buffer between stores. The County Council adopted the new 1000 foot buffer (along with grandfathering, which I did not propose), and called for further study to inform the County’s land use approach to legalization."