We understand that some concerns have arisen in response to a proposed marijuana business in your area. In order to provide clarity on what the City is responsible for and what the State governs, the City would like to provide background information and describe the regulatory decision making process in regards to the licensing of these marijuana businesses.

The state law, Initiative 502, approved by the voters of Washington State on November 6, 2012, called for the establishment of a regulatory system licensing producers, processors, and retailers of recreational marijuana. At that time, the state law indicated that no license would be approved within 1,000 feet of the perimeters of any of the following protected entities (to add to the protected entity list would require a vote of the Council):

  • A state recognized elementary or secondary school;
  • A playground owned or managed by a city, county, state or federal government;
  • A recreation center or facility;
  • A state licensed child care center;
  • A public park;
  • A public transit center;
  • A library; or
  • A game arcade where admission is not restricted to individuals 21 years or older

After recommendation from Plan Commission and a public hearing, the Spokane City Council passed a local ordinance in September of 2013 regulating marijuana businesses within the city limits. The ordinance, which can be found in SMC 17C.34, outlined the allowed zones and adopted the same State-identified protected entities listed above, along with the requirement to maintain a distance of 1,000 feet from any of those protected entities.

All of the licensing happens at the state level, as these licenses are issued by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. If the license request meets zoning and setback requirements (the requirement standards of the City for any business), the City has no mechanism to deny the license and will allow the business to move forward with their business plan.  There is no separate use permit required for the business to operate in an allowed location. The only permits issued by the City would be building permits for any on-site construction.

A change to the local zoning and spacing requirements would require an amendment to the existing ordinance through a vote of the City Council.

Map and Ordinance

On September 23rd, the Spokane City Council adopted Ordinance No. C-35037 relating to marijuana use, medical cannabis collective garden regulatory licensing and state-licensed marijuana producers, processors and retailers. The final ordinance provides permanent standards for marijuana related uses including zoning, regulatory licensing and security. The ordinance also addresses separation requirements from specified land uses. Medical cannabis collective gardens that were legally operating on September 23rd will be permitted to continue in operation as long as the operator submits an application for the regulatory license within thirty days of September 23rd. State-licensed marijuana producers, processors and retailers will still be licensed and regulated by the Washington State Liquor Control Board and will also need to comply with the City's land use zoning regulations as established in the Ordinance C–35037.

Marijuana related uses may locate in the permitted zoning categories provided in the ordinance. An updated map is being prepared showing the zoning categories where marijuana uses may be allowed. The map will provide a general reference. As provided in the ordinance, it is the responsibility of the operator to demonstrate that a proposed location is in compliance with the ordinance.

Related Documents and Links


City of Spokane - contact Kirstin Davis,, 509.625.7773

Washington State Liquor cannabis control board (LCB) - Enforcement Customer Service, 360.664.9878, Licensing, 360.664.1600

Photo by Petr Brož

Related Links