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I 502 Marijuana Law Series: Zoning

Location, location, location. If you're thinking of opening any business, you'll likely begin by asking yourself "where?" For the first entry in our I-502 series, we'd like to shed a light on some of the zoning challenges the I-502 marijuana law poses for new businesses in Washington.

The following image (source) is not up to date, but it illustrates the zoning challenges marijuana business owners will face trying to find a suitable place to open up shop.

Each dark spot represents an area where legal marijuana businesses are prohibited from operating in the Seattle area. 

Although many champion I-502 as a permissive initiative, it's zoning requirements are very prohibitive in that they do not allow production or distribution of marijuana within 1,000 feet from any:

  • Elementary, Middle, or High School;
  • Recreation Center or Facility;
  • Playground;
  • Child-Care Center;
  • Public Park;
  • Public Transit Center;
  • Library; or
  • Gaming Center for Minors.

As you can see from the map above, the dark spots cover essentially the entire city.

But I-502's zoning is only one hurdle to opening your business in the right location. After I-502's enactment, cities and counties in Washington began creating ordinances further restricting where a marijuana business can legally operate.

Seattle's ordinance now prohibits marijuana businesses from operating in six different downtown zones, and eight other districts throughout the city, regardless of whether the business would otherwise comply with I-502's zoning. As a result, many businesses operating from a I-502 approved location will be forced to relocate in order to be in compliance with the City's new ordinance.

This is not unique to Seattle, and it is not the end of the zoning changes. Over 30 Washington counties have either proposed or enacted ordinances that would limit marijuana businesses beyond I-502's general restrictions.

It's an exciting new frontier for Washington business, but remaining compliant with local rules is becoming increasingly difficult. A Washington marijuana business attorney can help you make sure your business is up to date on the constantly evolving zoning rules.


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