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City opens door to pot biz

Shelton-Mason County Journal of Shelton, Washington

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Zone change would allow marijuana grower on Shelton waterfront

The Shelton City Commission on Monday voted unanimously to reduce a zoning buffer to allow a marijuana growing business that will employ about 50 people on the Shelton waterfront.

The commission passed an ordinance that opens the door for Black Diamond Biotech to grow marijuana and make marijuana edibles in three empty buildings formerly occupied by ITT Rayonier. The site is next to the former Simpson Lumber Co. mill and future Sierra Pacific Industries mill.

The zoning amendment reduces a marijuana growing buffer from 1,000 to 500 feet to allow marijuana production and processing on the site, which is zoned commercial/industrial.

At a public hearing on Jan. 18, five residents told the commissioners they opposed the buffer change to allow the business, while eight said they supported the measure to open the door to the business. Many expressed concerns about the possible odor, but the members of the Duggan family, who are proposing the business, said they will have a closed-loop system that will capture the smells.

At the commission's meeting on Monday, Mayor Gary Cronce prefaced his remarks by saying the vote on the ordinance "is the most difficult decision I've made in four years."

Cronce said at one time, he had been a marijuana smoker for 10 years, and "I know what it does to your brain."

But Cronce added, "We have to do it."

"This is a good solid business plan," he said. "And it's legal. And I'm going to support it."

Commissioner Kathy McDowell said she talked to many people about the proposal, and heard many opinions. People will be disappointed by any decision, she said.

Nevertheless, "We need to kick-start this city, and I think this is a good way to do it," McDowell said.

Commissioner Tracy Moore, who has been championing the proposal, said she hopes the comments by the Duggans were enough to quash any fears people had about the business,

"I'm fully in favor it," she said.

Moore said she's been reading online comments about the proposal. Old-timers are recalling the paper mill on the Shelton waterfront, and their sentiment is "pretty much anything smells better than a paper mill," she said.


The business will be a family affair, operated by Denis and Cathy Duggan and their two sons, Denis Jr. and Dylan.

"We're pleased with the commission decision, that they took the time to really look into it," Cathy Duggan said in an interview with the Journal. All three commissioners were diligent in examining the proposal, she said.

"I'm exhilarated that the commission saw fit to see great job opportunities for Shelton," Denis Duggan said in an interview with the Journal.

He said he'd like to see Shelton "become an epicenter for this industry" and replace its tag as a lumber industry town.

"Shelton is in its winter of discontent ... but I see a brilliant future for them," he said. As for the empty Rayonier structures built in 1945, "all those buildings can be brought back to their former glory," he said.

At full production, the business will have about 50 employees, Cathy said. Local residents will have the opportunity to train for jobs at the business, including working in baking the edible marijuana products, she said.

The two sons will run the business, Cathy said. They currently live in Chehalis, but will move to Shelton, she said.

"We're looking forward to becoming part of Shelton," she said. "It's a pity it's become a shadow of its former self, but I believe it will come back."

The family currently has a business application with the state, and buffer reduction paves the way to acceptance, Cathy said.

It will probably take four to six months to prepare the buildings for the business, Cathy said. After that, the state will come in to inspect the buildings, to make sure the security cameras are installed and the proper locks are in place, she said.

After passing the state inspection, they can bring in the first seeds, Cathy said. It will take about four to six months to produce the first marijuana harvest, she said.

Cathy stressed that the employees must be at least 21 years old and not be felons. No one will be allowed to smoke pot on the premises, and all their moves will be on cameras, she said.

"No one can even be sneaking one in the back corner," she said.

The new business could be "a turning point for the entire city," Denis said.

"If this is done properly, it will become an epicenter of marijuana growing," he said.

Copyright 2016 Shelton-Mason County Journal, Shelton, Washington. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: January 28, 2016

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