Pierce County Council member proposing bill to overturn ban on pot businesses

PARKLAND, Wash. -- Pierce County ordered a retail pot shop in Parkland to shut down, but the business may have a new lease on life.

The owners of The Gallery did everything right in getting permits and licenses from the state, and decided last month to open, despite a ban on retail marijuana businesses in unincorporated Pierce County.

"Business has been fantastic," said Tedd Wetherbee, owner of The Gallery. "We’re up 100% over month one and we’re growing every day."

Wetherbee still faces hefty fines and possible closure by the county but he's also getting backing from someone high up in the Pierce County government.

"It just makes no sense to me to deprive folks who have legally gone through the process to obtain a license," said Derek Young, a Pierce County Council member, who is now presenting a bill that would overturn the ban on pot businesses.

It's a decision he came to after a recent drug bust in Gig Harbor. Police uncovered a massive, illegal grow operation right next to a day care.

"It was over 700 plants, and turned out to be one of the largest in decades in Pierce County," said Young. "At a time when we’re supposed to have a legalized system, we’ve got a grow operation with organized crime."

Young believes the Pierce County ban is keeping the black market business booming, and keeping a lot of tax dollars from the county and state. He also believes he has enough support in the council to get the votes to overturn the ban.

Meantime, the county is still going forward with enforcement of the current ban, though it has placed a stay on any fines while The Gallery owners and the building's owners go through an application for a conditional-use permit, which would be decided by a county hearing examiner.

Wetherbee is counting on the ban to be overturned. If that happens, he believes there will be a lot more pot businesses opening up all over Pierce County.

"Since we've opened, we’ve taken roughly $350,000 out of the pockets of illegal operations, and put it into tax-paying businesses."