School board takes a stance on marijuana

Staff directed to draft a resolution condemning stores in city limits

Staff writerMay 14, 2014 

Peninsula School Board president Harlan Gallinger asked Superintendent Chuck Cuzzetto to draft a resolution to present to the Gig Harbor city council. The resolution’s potential statements are not in favor of retail marijuana in the city of Gig Harbor.

Voters in Pierce County approved Initiative 502 54 percent to 45 percent in November 2012. Statewide, the initiative passed by the same margin.

But the rollout of legalized marijuana is complicated. The state’s Liquor Control Board recently held a sectioned lottery for applicants. Gig Harbor falls within the Pierce County at-large section, which also includes unincorporated county areas like the Key Peninsula. The district has schools both within city limits and in the unincorporated county.

In the original language of Initiative 502, retail marijuana stores are not allowed within 1,000 feet of a school, playground, park, transit center, child care center, library, arcade or essentially any place where youth congregate. The initiative also limited retail sales to those 21 and older.

According to federal law, schools must continue to be drug-free zones. Furthermore, students are not old enough to meet the age requirement for legal marijuana. That means all retail marijuana is illegal for them.

After the passage of I-502, state superintendent Randy Dorn issued a statement saying that state schools are committed to maintaining a drug-free environment. Schools receive federal funding under the Safe and Drug-Free Communities Act, Dorn said, and while marijuana is legal in Washington and Colorado, it remains illegal under federal law.

In addition, the Gig Harbor city council passed a buffer that prohibits a retail marijuana shop from operating within 2,500 feet of another retail marijuana shop. That prevents the proverbial “pot mall” from showing up in retail areas.

District property is at the heart of the city’s moratorium because one of the concerns is proximity of outlets to an after-school program managed by the Peninsula School District called the Career Transition Program, or CTP.

But it is not clear that CTP qualifies as a violation of the rules.

One shop that would violate the 1,000-foot boundary in the event that CTP is deemed a violation is The Gallery, owned by Tedd Wetherbee. In previous reporting, Wetherbee has said that the property is not a school unless determined by the OSPI’s office.

City planner Lindsey Sehmel said the school board has not provided any comment in public hearings regarding marijuana in Gig Harbor.

The board wants to be on record as discouraging use of the drug. It has concerns because “... having a shop within walking distance of our CTP program is just crazy,” board member Rand Wilhelmsen said.

Gallinger would like the board to draft a resolution to be read to the city council. He asked the board members to brainstorm the “whereas” statements that would comprise the statement. Those ideas now go to district staff.

The resolution will come back to the school board for approval at its May 22 meeting. The Gig Harbor city council will hold a public hearing on the six-month emergency moratorium on retail marijuana sales June 9.

Board member Matt Wilkinson said his reasons for not wanting retail marijuana in the area are personal.

“In my family, drug abuse, marijuana use in particular, has been one of the things that some of my family members have struggled with,” he said. “The idea that our city would think of it as a good idea to be part of this... is appalling.”

Board member David Olson had similar argument, saying that the board shouldn’t be standing on the sidelines of legal use.

“I certainly don’t want to be promoting (marijuana use) and saying we endorse it,” Olsen said.

Gallinger cited internal numbers from the 2012 Healthy Youth Survey saying current marjiuana use in Peninsula schools is higher than the state average, “so why would we want to give (students) more access,” he said.

The board next meets at 6 p.m. May 22 at the district office, 14015 62nd Ave. Gig Harbor.

Karen Miller: 253-358-4155 karen.miller@gateline.com Twitter: @gateway_karen

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