Richland council works to update laws regarding marijuana use

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 3, 2013 

Benton County's second-largest city is updating its code to reflect the state's new marijuana rules.

The Richland City Council on Wednesday gave initial approval to an ordinance amending the sections dealing with pot and drug paraphernalia. The changes aren't a done deal -- they must come back to the council once more for a final vote.

Richland is the latest local city to take the step. The Kennewick City Council made similar updates to city code at a meeting in December, and Pasco and West Richland officials are expected to consider doing the same soon.

"We need to be consistent around the four cities," Richland Mayor John Fox said during a workshop session before the council meeting.

The council and city staff spent about a half-hour discussing the new law, including how it affects the police department. Police Chief Chris Skinner said his officers already are reporting encountering more drivers they suspect of marijuana use.

The new law took effect late last year, after voters statewide approved Initiative 502, which makes it legal for adults 21 and older to have limited amounts of marijuana or marijuana-infused products. The new law also sets a path for licensing and regulating the production and sale of pot; the state Liquor Control Board is working on the details of a new system.

It's still illegal for people under 21 to grow, sell or possess pot, and marijuana remains a Schedule 1 controlled substance federally.

The law includes a legal limit for driving under the influence of marijuana.

Almost 56 percent of voters statewide approved it at the ballot box, but it was markedly less popular among local voters. It drew about 44 percent approval in Benton County and 39 percent approval in Franklin County.

Also Tuesday:

-- The council also appointed Lloyd Becker to the city's Housing and Community Development Advisory Committee and reappointed Richland Nordgren. And, council members re-appointed Michael Heimbigner to the city's Personnel Committee.

At a meeting last month, the council appointed Andrea Aebersold to the Library Board and Stanley Jones to the Richland Public Facilities District board, which is overseeing the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center project.

-- Sara Schilling: 582-1529;; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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