Seattle shrinks buffer zones around marijuana businesses

by: Graham Johnson Updated:

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SEATTLE - Pot shops are coming to more Seattle neighborhoods. 

The City Council voted Monday to shrink the buffer zones that had separated legal marijuana businesses from places like parks and child care centers.

When Washington voters approved recreational marijuana in 2012, the state law required a 1,000-foot buffer.

Last year, as it worked to merge the recreational and medical marijuana systems, the Legislature allowed cities to reduce buffer zones to as little as 100 feet, except around playgrounds and schools.

On Monday, the City Council unanimously set buffer zones for producers and processors at 250 feet.

For retailers, the new buffer will be 250 feet downtown and 500 feet elsewhere in the city.

No more than two pot businesses can be within 1,000 feet of each other.

The 1,000-foot buffer had led to vast areas of the city without marijuana businesses and clusters in areas like SODO, where James Lathrop runs Cannabis City, the first legal marijuana store to open in Seattle.

"We're a block away from the dump. We're here because of this crazy zoning," Lathrop said.

Lathrop was among the marijuana business people who advocated for smaller buffer zones.

Supporters said loosening the buffer zones will help the state's legal marijuana system succeed by competing with the illicit market, and make it more available to visitors.

Some in the industry are also opposed to smaller buffer zones.

They urged the council to slow down, arguing that pot shops in more neighborhoods could lead to public backlash and businesses failing under competition.