Washington State law recognizes the importance of safe and reasonable access to recreational and medical marijuana. Washington voters originally legalized medical marijuana use in 1998 by initiative of people under I-692. A little more than a decade later, voters revisited a related question on recreational marijuana use. That initiative (I-502) passed in 2012 paving the way for legal recreational use. The State Legislature has progressively amended State statute for both streams of marijuana law. In 2015, the Legislature adopted policies that would establish a consolidated market for the production, processing, and procurement of medical and recreational marijuana by July 1, 2016. Two State agencies hold primary responsibility for carrying out medical and recreational marijuana statutes—those being the Washington State Department of Health and Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, respectively.
The State isn't the only governmental entity that has a hand in regulating marijuana-related activities. Snohomish County has local responsibility in regulating these activities for the health, safety, and general welfare of the public. The County does this by implementing comprehensive development codes that address land use, building, life safety, and others related regulatory issues. General information on current regulations for medical and recreational marijuana activities is described in the following sections.
County Land Use Regulations
The use matrices of Chapter 30.22 SCC, summarized below, establish regulations for when and where marijuana-related activities are permitted in Snohomish County. Uses are permitted in a zone when noted with a "P". Use are conditionally permitted in a zoned when noted with a "C" and subject to the procedural requirements of Chapter 30.42C SCC. In the use matrices below, a marijuana-related use is outright prohibited if noted with a "-" in the corresponding zone or if a zone itself is not listed. Footnotes are provided for some uses, which may contain more restrictive conditions for the activities. In some instances, the footnotes may render a marijuana-related activity as impermissible. Definitions of each use type are described in full at the bottom of this page.
Marijuana-Related Activities in Urban Zones
|Marijuana Retail3, 4||C||C||C||C||C||C||N/A||C||C|
|Marijuana Processing1, 3||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||P||P||P||P|
|Marijuana Production1, 3||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||P||P||P||P|
Marijuana-Related Activities in Rural Zones
|Marijuana Retail3, 4||N/A||C||N/A|
|Marijuana Production2, 3||P||N/A||P|
|Marijuana Processing2, 3||P||N/A||P|
1. Special Requirements in Urban Areas. In urban zones where marijuana production, processing, or collective garden uses are permitted, they are required to take place indoors only. Outdoor production and processing is expressly prohibited under the code.
2. Specific Requirements in Rural Areas. The development code stipulates four special conditions for marijuana-related activities to follow within rural zones. Specifically, the code requires compliance with the following:
- Marijuana-related uses are only permitted on sites with an aggregate area of 100,000 square feet or greater.
- Marijuana processing is only permitted when located on a site where a marijuana production facility is operated.
- While marijuana production and processing activities may occur indoors and outdoors, different setback regulations apply. Marijuana production and processing activities must be set back 30 feet from all property lines if conducted indoors and set back 50 feet from all property lines if conducted outdoors.
3. Marijuana Activity Prohibition on Tulalip Reservation. Marijuana-related facilities are prohibited within the exterior boundaries of the Tulalip Indian Reservation.
4. Marijuana Retail Requirements. No more than 32 state-licensed marijuana retail facilities shall be allowed in unincorporated Snohomish County. A marijuana retail use shall not be located within 1,000 feet of the perimeter of the grounds of any primary or secondary school, or any property owned by a school district that is identified in a six-year capital facility plan for construction of a primary or secondary school. Additionally, a marijuana retail use shall not be be located within 2,500 feet of another marijuana retail use, which shall be determined by measuring the distance horizontally following the shortest straight line from the property line where a state-licensed marijuana retailer is located to the property line of the proposed location, except that:
- Legal non-conforming marijuana retail uses in existence on or before June 21, 2016 are exempt from this separation requirement;
- An application of a marijuana retail use submitted to the County after March 13, 2017 is exempt from this separation requirement if the County received a Notice of Marijuana License Application from WSLCB for the subject site on or before June 21, 2016 and did not issue a written objection, and no marijuana retail use existed on the proposed site any time between June 22, 2016 and March 13, 2017; and
- An application for a marijuana retail use submitted to the County after March 13, 2017 is exempt from this separation requirement if the applicant owned real property that included the proposed site or signed a lease for the proposed site on or before June 21, 2016, the applicant previously operated a medical marijuana collective within the county, and no marijuana retail use existed on the proposed site any time between June 22, 2016 and March 13, 2017.
Recent Land Use Regulatory Changes
The County Council adopted Ordinance No. 17-006 (PDF) on February 15, 2017, which established new separation requirements for retail marijuana uses and subjects to such uses to the Conditional Use Permit process. The ordinance also repealed Emergency Ordinance No. 16-051 (PDF) and related Emergency Ordinance No. 16-123.
The County Council also adopted Amended Ordinance No. 16-033 (PDF) on June 15, 2016 to better align the County's development code with the Cannabis Patient Protection Act (CPPA) approved by Washington State in 2015. The ordinance eliminates marijuana collective garden dispensaries or access points. The CPPA became effective on July 1, 2016. Therefore, the County's followed with an effective date of July 3, 2016.
In sum, Amended Ordinance No. 16-033 eliminates "Marijuana Collective Garden" and "Marijuana Collective Garden Dispensary or Access Point" as listed uses from the use matrices in Chapter 30.22 SCC. The terms are also deleted from Chapter 30.91M SCC.
Finally, the County Council adopted Amended Ordinance No. 16-039 on June 22, 2016 to add a footnote to all marijuana uses listed in Chapter 30.22 SCC that prohibits marijuana-related facilities withing the exterior boundaries of the Tulalip Indian Reservation and removes similar language from footnote (124). The ordinance became effective on July 7, 2016.
County Building and Fire Regulations
Most marijuana-related facilities will require some level of Building and Fire review by the County. Recreational retail marijuana stores and medical marijuana dispensaries are treated the same under the Building and Fire codes. These facilities are generally designated as an M (mercantile) Occupancy. This means that the building/unit must meet M Occupancy standards, which may include require ADA-compliant facilities, accessible bathrooms, and life safety features. Even if the use will go into a building previously occupied by a retail use, a Change of Use Permit (covered under the Commercial Building Permit application) will be required to ensure that the building is code compliant. The Fire Marshal will issue a Certificate of Occupancy upon building permit final. Annual inspections will then be served upon the property to confirm continued building and fire code compliance.
Marijuana production and processing facilities are classified as an F-1 Occupancy due to the nature of the activities. Conversions of existing buildings or the establishment of new ones must conform to the F-1 standard; these type of facilities are reviewed for adequate fire flow and fire access, and may require sprinklers and fire alarms depending upon their size and location. Marijuana production and/or processing in greenhouses may be exempt from an F-1 occupancy provided that the use is seasonal and passive. Storage containers are still classified the same way as any other structure. In all cases, building permits are required from the County. Prospective applicants should also know that Building codes require a Commercial Building Permit to be issued for each fence over 7 feet in height. Upon final approval of building permits, a Certificate of Occupancy will be issued by the Fire Marshal with annual inspections conducted to verify continued code compliance.
It's recommended that you contact Building and Fire review staff for any technical questions regarding current code requirements for marijuana-related facilities. Additionally, other permitting may be required, such as Mechanical, Land Disturbing Activity, and Flood Hazard (PDF) permits, depending upon the location and amount of development activity proposed.
The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) is the primary agency responsible for licensing recreational and medical marijuana activities. The WSLCB implements statewide rules for the operation of legal recreational and medical marijuana facilities. For instance, the WSLCB regulates advertising associated with recreational businesses, required security features, the amount of space permitted for marijuana production, and distances between marijuana facilities and sensitive uses.
State law establishes a minimum distance of 1,000 feet from any primary and secondary school, playground, recreation facility, public park, child care center, public transit center, library, or game arcade that allows minors to enter for all marijuana facilities. The WSLCB is responsible for making determinations on these distances. While State legislation passed in 2015 has allowed local jurisdictions to reduce distances between marijuana-related facilities and certain sensitive uses by local ordinance, Snohomish County has not adopted any such ordinance. Therefore, the stricter State locational provisions apply in unincorporated Snohomish County. Additionally, it is important to note that Snohomish County does not make interpretations or determinations for the WSLCB on any State locational requirements.
However, Snohomish County does provide general land use guidance to the WSLCB on all marijuana license applications referred for comment to the County. Response letters from the County provide two functional purposes for the WSLCB and applicants. Firstly, responses are intended to disseminate local land use regulations to both parties in so far as they relate to the location of the proposed marijuana license. Secondly, responses advise applicants on general permitting requirements and provide them a point of contact should they have questions on County regulations. When a proposed license clearly violates the County's land use regulations, County staff will recommend that the license be denied.
The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) is also responsible for regulating medical marijuana in cooperation with the WSLCB, including collective gardens, individual exemptions, patient access, and provider regulatory requirements. Medical marijuana providers and patients should defer to DOH for any special statutory requirements and exemptions beyond those covered under County regulation. Additionally, where a commercial kitchen is associate with production of edible products, the applicant will need to receive approval and inspections from the Washington State Department of Agriculture.
Puget Sound Clean Air Agency Regulations
Marijuana production and processing activities can cause odors and organic components that are volatile. As a result, such emissions can impact the local air quality and create a nuisance. Odors that are deemed a nuisance are defined as air contaminants under Washington State law. Therefore, the nuisance odors are regulated in Snohomish County by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.
Marijuana production and processing facilities are required to coordinate with the PSCAA prior to construction and operation of a facility to apply for a Notice of Construction application and obtain a permit. One the permit has been approved, it will be issued by the PSCAA with specific conditions. The permit-holder will be required to comply with any air quality conditions attached to the permit.
Marijuana Retail is defined as "a facility licensed by the state liquor and cannabis board to sell marijuana concentrates, useable marijuana, and marijuana-infused products in a retail outlet."
Marijuana Processing is defined as "a facility licensed by the state liquor control and cannabis board to process marijuana into marijuana concentrates, useable marijuana, and marijuana-infused products, package and label marijuana concentrates, useable marijuana, and marijuana-infused products for sale in retail outlets, and sell marijuana concentrates, useable marijuana, and marijuana-infused products at wholesale to marijuana retailers."
Marijuana Production is defined as "a facility licensed by the state liquor and cannabis board to produce and sell marijuana at wholesale to marijuana processors and other marijuana producers."
This page was last updated on July 12, 2017.