“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.” - Henry David Thoreau
by Tyler Mangrum
- The Capitol Hill Times -
Following a Liquor Control Board meeting on October 8, and the recent decision by the federal government to keep any marijuana retailers 1,000 feet away from “an elementary or secondary school, playground, recreation center or facility, child care center, public park, public transit center, library, or arcade where admission is not restricted to those age 21 and older,” the Liquor Control Board has found that the only suitable place for a marijuana retailer is on the corner of 23rd Avenue and East Union Street in the Central District, which may house numerous marijuana shops in 2014. However, the decision has left some residents unhappy.
Stephanie Tschida, head of the East Precinct Advisory Council (EastPAC), has reportedly received numerous emails from neighborhood residents about the choice of the location, and that the decision to implement the 1000-foot radius restriction rather than the 500-foot buffer employed by liquor stores is only keeping pot stores away from areas that have a higher demand for them.
“The reason I do EastPAC is that I want to be a voice for the people who aren’t heard,” Tschida said. “I think that it’s a real concern. Why is this designated placement right in the middle of the Central District? Why not Capitol Hill? That’s what people want. I can’t believe that that’s the only area in this whole precinct that is suitable for a marijuana retailer.”
Despite the fact that the 23rd and Union location has a liquor store on the corner already, some of the emails that Tschida received voiced concerns about the fact that the area is primarily residential, as well having numerous youth-orientated services like Meter Music School, Seattle Kajukenbo & Kung Fu Kids, Friends of the Children, Umoja Fest, and Casey Family Services.
“A lot of the messages I’ve seen from neighbors have been saying that they want to provide a healthy environment for their families and their children,” Tschida said. “Some of these people have lived in the area since their grandparents were here. I think the main concern that I’ve heard is who it is going to draw into the neighborhood. The presence of the customers migrating into the neighborhood is a worry for people who actually live here. They said they wouldn’t put pot stores in residential areas, but there are tons of houses just a block away.”
Tschida, however, made clear that most of the opposition to the placement of the marijuana retail shop had no opposition to I-502 passing last November on the whole, but were only concerned with the placement of the shop at that intersection, as well as expressing that they couldn’t see a pot shop being constructed in more affluent neighborhoods like Wallingford, Madison Park, or Queen Anne.
“I haven’t heard anybody who is opposed to the law,” Tschida said. “The only exceptions are the people who work for the Drug Free Coalition, who bring up how if the perception of harm decreases, use increases. And the way that pot has become so strong since being hybridized, they don’t think that it’s a good idea for youth to be using it.”
While the feedback that Tschida has received from concerned residents has taken the spotlight, many of the residents of various backgrounds have said that the placement of the marijuana retailer didn’t evoke any strong reaction in them, if not eliciting a favorable reaction, with one neighborhood mother saying that “it’s better than having nothing there.”
“I think it’s a good place,” said resident Ronald Brown. “It’s not like you see children coming out of Casey Family Services all the time.”
“I don’t think it’s either good or bad off the cuff,” said Chris Page, a neighborhood father. “This area is a pretty dynamic part of the Central District. I don’t know what kind of clientele it will bring, and I don’t know if it will necessarily bring crime. Most marijuana users tend to be pretty white collar.”
Although some have been more accepting of the pot shop’s placement at 23rd Avenue and East Union Street, those that Tschida has spoken to show that opposition remains. But, at the same time, Tschida believes that one saving grace of the decision may come from the Liquor Control Board ensuring that some of the profits from the retailer go directly back into the community.
“It’s a good source of tax revenue, but keep it local,” Tschida said. “Keep it in the neighborhood so we can improve it. I tend to be concerned for who’s going to provide oversight for the money, and it going back into the community might help. But I don’t see that happening.”