Kennewick City Council amends city code to effectively ban pot gardens

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldDecember 19, 2012 

The Kennewick City Council unanimously decided to end its moratorium on collective gardens for medical marijuana patients.

But that doesn't mean that collective gardens will be allowed in Kennewick city limits.

In its place, the council amended city code Tuesday to say that the city will not allow a land use that violates state or federal law.

The position is similar to the one Pasco City Council took in June when the Pasco council decided to ban medical marijuana gardens and amended the city zoning code to state that the city won't allow anything that violates local, state or federal law.

None of the Tri-Cities allows collective gardens. Richland's moratorium will expire in six months, and West Richland's expired earlier this year.

The state Legislature in 2011 passed a law allowing collective gardens, but Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed parts of it. Kennewick City Attorney Lisa Beaton said the portions that were not vetoed did not set up a way for collective gardens to be licensed, regulated or taxed.

The Legislature will need to address the disconnect between the collective gardens law and Initiative 502, which does set up a way for recreational use to be licensed, regulated and taxed, Beaton said. For now, a neutral position is best.

Collective gardens violate federal law that makes growing or possessing marijuana illegal, no matter if it is for medicinal purposes, Beaton said.

The city council also unanimously adopted changes to the city code to incorporate the new state law created by I-502, which legalized marijuana possession for adults 21 and older and will set up a way to legally grow and sell weed.

Adults 21 and older can possess up to 1 ounce of useable marijuana, 16 ounces of marijuana-infused product in solid form or 72 ounces of a marijuana-infused product in liquid form. Possessing anything more is a crime, and it remains illegal for anyone younger than 21 to possess pot.

Selling and growing marijuana remains illegal while the state Liquor Control Board drafts the rules to govern the new licenses that will be required for those activities. The board has until Dec. 1 next year, and officials expect they will need all that time to develop a system.

Consumption of marijuana is illegal in public places such as parks, businesses, streets and vehicles, state officials said.

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