Community Post

Zoning proposal could restrict Seattle marijuana sales in tourist areas, historical districts

A recent DPD map showed areas where legal marijuana could potentially be sold

A recent DPD map showed areas where legal marijuana could potentially be sold

Some city councilmembers want to shield the city’s tourist areas, historical districts and family zones from the effects of legalized marijuana.

Councilmembers Nick Licata and Sally Clark are proposing an amendment to the city’s Land Use Code, to restrict production, processing, selling and delivery of marijuana in Capitol Hill’s Harvard-Belmont area, the downtown core, and other historical districts and family zones throughout the city.

The changes could further restrict the already tight squeeze predicted for marijuana retailing locations that might not run afoul of federal guidelines.

We wrote recently about the potential for 23rd and Union to be one of the only central Seattle pot sales locations. The changes proposed in the ordinance do not appear to directly take the location off the table for recreational marijuana businesses. While the ordinance would not allow sales in small neighborhood commercial zones (NC1), 23rd and Union is zoned NC2. We have requested clarification from the city to confirm that the corner would not likely be affected.

UPDATE: Brennon Staley from DPD says the proposed ordinance would not affect 23rd and Union:

The proposed ordinance would not impact the NC2 zones outside of historic districts.  This includes the commercial areas around 23rd and Union.  It would limit the growth, processing, selling, and delivery of marijuana in the adjacent residential zones.

The proposals come in response to recently enacted I-502 and the necessity to develop a process for regulating marijuana and marijuana products, according to the city.

The proposal would not alter federal or State criminal law related to marijuana, and it would not place any City employee in the position of permitting or sanctioning any marijuana-related activity.


Rather, it would be an exercise of the City’s authority to protect the public health, safety, and welfare by preventing incompatible uses—in this instance, larger-scale marijuana-related activity and businesses and residences in areas where such activity could cause inappropriate off-site impacts.

The amendments would establish restrictions in:

1. Any Single-family zone

2. Any Multifamily zone

3. Any Neighborhood Commercial 1 (NC1) zone

4. Any of the following Downtown zones:

a. Pioneer Square Mixed

b. International District Mixed

c. International District Residential

d. Downtown Harborfront 1

e. Downtown Harborfront 2

f. Pike Market Mixed


5. Any of the following districts:

a. Ballard Avenue Landmark District

b. Columbia City Landmark District

c. Fort Lawton Landmark District

d. Harvard-Belmont Landmark District

e. International Special Review District

f. Pike Place Market Historical District

g. Pioneer Square Preservation District

h. Sand Point Overlay District


Additionally, the proposed legislation would add definitions related to marijuana. It would also modify provisions for community gardens and urban farms on industrially zoned property in the Duwamish and Ballard/Interbay Manufacturing and Industrial Centers to clarify existing standards and limit indoor agricultural operations to a maximum size of 10,000 square feet, excluding associated office or food processing areas.

A public hearing on the proposals is scheduled at 2 p.m. April 24 at Seattle City Hall’s City Council Chambers, Second floor, 600 Fourth Ave.

5 thoughts on “Zoning proposal could restrict Seattle marijuana sales in tourist areas, historical districts

  1. Can anyone explain what historic or landmark district status has to do with selling pot? Seems like a ridiculous exclusion. Is this some play by the city to create businesses that will occupy the overpriced retail in new mixed use buildings?

  2. It’s much like Jim Crow laws. This will be dealt with for a time until it becomes absurd.

    It’s the natural response of the prohibitionist and those who do not understand or have experience to try to create restrictions all over the place. Remember, the main reason they want it hidden is because they just don’t like to “see” it. We speak about alcohol prohibition as if it is over, but there are still dry counties everywhere in the US. Liquor just made it into the grocery stores this past year in Washington. Many states still segregate their liquor. Second class citizen. ;)

    I truly do think it is the SMOKING piece of the equation that is at odds with the developing mindsets worldwide. Right as smoking is going out of fashion with many, along comes cannabis legalization, and those who are not interested in smoking, simply get the wrong idea. It’s not so much the “drug” label it has taken, these people may even be daily coffee drinkers, or 5 hour energy lovers, alcohol consumers. Most understand this. It’s the red glazed eyed look, and the smoking, that repulses those who have a natural aversion to it.

    My thoughts – If vaporization became king, and the rise of clubs with vaporizer access might be key here – this might be a huge domino in shifting perception. My two cents……

  3. “Some city councilmembers want to shield the city’s tourist areas, historical districts and family zones from the effects of legalized marijuana”

    – well in order to do that they’ll have to first stop people using the marijuana they currently use, and that’s impossible!

    Anyway, allowing stores to sell legally-grown marijuana to adults at prices low enough to undercut drug dealers and drive them off the street will *reduce* the number of criminals in these areas. Why on earth would anyone want to take away this deterrence to criminal activity??

    It was the will of the people to legalize marijuana like wine, it is NOT the position of these officials to override this decision with decisions based on misinformation!

    • I would like to see some ordinances establishing rules for certifying these products to meet certain standards.

      Obviously some weights and measures certifications to include content of all active and non-active compounds

      Grading and certifications regarding flavor, solubility, combustion rate, organically grown, pesticide free, etc.

      Packaging compliance with environmental and asthetic norms.

      What happens when Frito Lay starts packaging this stuff and marketing it to kids? We simply must get ahead of the madness to come. Some basic standards now will save us six decades of foolishness.

  4. P.R. will be a big part of legal marijuana. While Seattlites seem to have shifted from worrying about federal intervention to worrying about “Big Marijuana”, keeping a low profile is still important. I remember reading about the San Francisco council having similar concerns about a highly visible medicinal marijuana shop down on Fisherman’s Wharf. So I can see where the Seatlle city council is coming from.

    Honestly- as far as 23rd and union having a monopoly on local marijuana sales- I think that has real potential upside for the corner and the neighborhood. There is a big market of very reasonable consumers for marijuana and they’re gonna have the munchies!