Port says ‘no’ to pot producer for a second time

Despite a personal plea from a local entrepreneur, the board of commissioners for the Port of Bremerton are standing firm that there will be no pot production on port property.

“This doesn’t mean that our policy can’t change sometime in the future,” Port Chairman Roger Zabinski told Jeff Way, “but we have to uphold the strongest of the laws and that means we will follow the federal law which still views marijuana as illegal.”

Way, who represents a group of investors under the name Seattle Inceptive Group, came before port commissioners last week to ask them to reconsider their action to pass a resolution that would make it impossible for his company to lease or buy a building in the Olympic View Industrial Park, a port-owned and operated industrial park.

Last month, port commissioners passed Resolution 2014-05 which upheld previous action that all tenants on port property must comply with all applicable local, state and federal laws.

Way said he had been in negotiations with the owner of a building in the industrial park for more than six months and had plans to purchase it and begin a marijuana production operation in that building. He was told it would be only a formality to get the port to sign off on the deal, when he ran up against the port’s Resolution 2014-05.

Washington voters last year approved I-502 making marijuana use legal in Washington. The state is working to license producers and retailers and sales are anticipated to begin within a year.

Way said he and his investors received three licenses in the state lottery to be producers of cannabis, the term he used in his presentation. He said they already have locations in south Seattle and Mason County. He wants to have the third location in Kitsap County. He plans to employ 10 to 12 people in Kitsap County in the first year, and up to 40 by the end of year two.

“We are working to bring the industry to a level of legitimacy,” Way said. “We know there are ports in Washington who have agreed to work with I-502 businesses and we want to alleviate any concerns you have.”

Port officials, including Fred Salisbury, director of operations, have said that the resolution was not aimed at the marijuana industry, but rather at upholding federal law.

Commissioners have said they fear that the Federal Aviation Administration could pull funding for airport projects, if a marijuana production business was operating on port property.

“The Port is not in receipt of any documentation from the FAA that indicates that they would pull federal funding if a pot producer goes into the industrial park,” Salisbury said. “The commission made clear both at the study session and at the last meeting that port tenants must abide by federal, state, and local laws. Though I-502 makes legal the production, processing and sale of marijuana, federal law does not.”

Port commissioners told Way that he should look to locate in the South Kitsap Industrial Area, but not in the port’s industrial park.

Way said the building he was looking at was ready to go, and that he didn’t have time to build his own building.

“There isn’t what we need out there and building from scratch could add another 12 months to this and we can’t do that,” he said.

He reminded commissioners that the ports of Willipa Bay and Shelton have OK’d marijuana production on their properties and that the Port of Shelton had corresponded with the FAA, and that there is no concern regarding loss of federal funding due to their recent decision.

“We are all family guys,” he said. “We’re here trying to generate tax revenue for local and state governments and to provide good wage jobs. There will be no retail activities at this location. The building will be closed to the public and we will have carbon air scrubbers to prevent any smell from leaving the building.”

He also stressed that security would be tight and there will be 24-hour surveillance. He said there would be no outdoor signage placed on the building.

Although the port has been actively looking for tenants for the industrial park, commissioners told Way they would not reconsider their actions at this time.

“I commend you for being entrepreneurs,” said Commissioner Axel Strakeljahn. “I know there are opportunities out there for you. Just not here.”

Following the meeting, Way said he is not giving up on locating in Kitsap County. He needs a 10- to 20,000-square-foot building to begin with. He said he has concerns that many municipalities are passing legislation that prohibits pot producers from locating in those cities. Hence, he said industrial areas are where he needs to be.

“We were hoping that the Port of Bremerton would see this as an opportunity for them,” Way said. “This is an industry that is coming. It’s a legitimate business in Washington and I would hope that they would want to be a part of it.”

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