Kennewick City Council might put moratorium on pot sales

By Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldJuly 23, 2013 

Washington residents soon will be able to smoke marijuana, but they might not be able to buy it in Kennewick for a while.

The Kennewick City Council discussed placing a moratorium on approving marijuana-related businesses at a Tuesday workshop meeting. City attorney Lisa Beaton said the city still needs to go over discrepancies between Washington law, which legalizes recreational use of marijuana, and federal law that criminalizes it.

Another problem could come in sorting out the difference between medical marijuana sales, which are untaxed and unregulated, and recreational sales, which face state rules and a 25-percent sales tax. The city also needs to work on zoning for marijuana businesses.

Though the city can't place a sales tax on marijuana, it can consider implementing a business and operations tax, as well as setting a business license fee, Beaton said.

"I don't know anything to say, other than, 'It's a mess,' " she said.

The city can issue a six-month or a year-long moratorium on marijuana business licenses, Beaton said. The longer moratorium would require the city show the state it has a work plan toward issuing licenses. Both moratoriums would require a public hearing before going into effect.

The council talked about having an initial six-month moratorium, then extending it for another year after that ends.

Councilman Paul Parish raised the idea of having the city not allow marijuana sales at all because it doesn't want to break federal law.

But Beaton said the city can make sure it doesn't have federal liability when it writes its ordinance.

"We say that we are merely doing this to be in compliance with state law," she said. "We are not intending to be in violation of federal law."

Mayor Steve Young was not pleased that local governments don't get any sales tax revenue from marijuana sales.

"That's just wrong," he said.

Washington residents voted to legalize and regulate marijuana use in November, with the first licenses expected to be issued late this year or early next year.

Also Tuesday:

w The council discussed expanding its aggressive panhandling ordinance to Edison Street, between Columbia Park Trail and 10th Avenue.

The solicitation ban, which went into effect in February, is now limited to 250 feet of the intersections of Highway 395 and Kennewick Avenue, Highway 395 and Clearwater Avenue and Columbia Drive and Washington Street, as well as Columbia Center Boulevard between Clearwater and Arrowhead avenues and on 27th Avenue between Highway 395 and South Quillan Street.

In addition, it prohibits solicitation within 25 feet of an ATM or financial institution.

w The council voted to cancel its Aug. 6 meeting because of National Night Out.

w Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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