According to a Pierce County press release, on Dec. 15, the Pierce County Council repealed its de facto ban on marijuana production and sales in unincorporated areas.

The bill changes the conditional use permit process by eliminating a requirement that sellers prove the sale of marijuana is not a Schedule 1 drug under the Federal Controlled Substance Act. In addition, marijuana retailers are no longer required to operate in stand-alone buildings.

The changes were sponsored by Democratic councilmembers Derek Young, Connie Ladenburg and Rick Talbert. Councilman Doug Richardson supported the measure after the council agreed to create a fund to pay for marijuana enforcement.

After the ordinance was passed, councilwoman Joyce McDonald, who voted against removing the marijuana ban, proposed an advisory vote to be presented to rural county voters in April. Talbot, voting along party lines, supported that motion, which passed by a 4-3 margin.

According to the Tacoma News Tribune, there are more than 200,000 voters in unincorporated Pierce County. Auditor Julie Anderson estimated that the cost of the advisory vote would be $425,000.

Young noted that voters in every council district approved Initiative 502 in 2012, including rural areas that passed it 52 to 48 percent.

Young commented, “If you look at the map, there are very few precincts where this initiative wasn’t popular. We don’t have $425,000 for this vote, and even if we end up having the vote, it’s not binding,”he said.

Young said the ordinance goes into effect regardless of the outcome.

“The council would have to pass a new ordinance rescinding this one. I just can’t see the Pierce County Executive signing that one,” he said.

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