Pasco OKs 6-month moratorium on pot production

September 3, 2013 

The Pasco City Council approved a six-month moratorium on producing, processing and selling marijuana in the city at its Tuesday meeting, despite the federal government’s recent statement that states can license businesses to grow and sell the drug for recreational use.

The council discussed the moratorium at its Aug. 26 workshop and among its concerns were the discrepancy between state law, which is being changed to allow for recreational marijuana use, and federal law, which continues to prohibit it. That was three days before a deputy U.S. attorney general issued a policy statement giving Washington and Colorado, as well as states that may approve marijuana in the future, the green light to regulate recreational and medical use of the drug.

The federal memo still leaves a number of questions to be answered, City Manager Gary Crutchfield said. And work would still need to be done on developing zoning and land use regulations for marijuana.

“If they said, ‘We’re not going to do anything about it,’ we would still need to do our own rules,” he said. “It’s difficult to do our rules when the state doesn’t have their own rules.”

Councilman Al Yenney said the city must be careful because how the federal government enforces marijuana laws can change depending on who is president.

“Even though the feds look like they agree, that could change basically overnight,” he said.

The council will have a public hearing on the moratorium Oct. 7.

Also Tuesday:

-- The council heard from residents upset about the final two phases of a local improvement district in the Kurtzman Park neighborhood. Residents in the area pay an assessment for street widening, curb, gutter, storm drainage and street lighting.

Residents at the public hearing said the project was poorly planned. Rocky Miller, who lives on Waldemar Avenue, said trees on his property were torn up by backhoes.

City officials defended the improvements, saying the final assessments will cost property owners 30 percent less than originally anticipated. They also said the improvements cost much less than if residents hired their own contractors.

The council is expected to take a final vote on the improvement districts at its Sept. 16 meeting.

-- The council approved an $18,015 bid with White Shield Inc. of Pasco for a hazardous materials survey for 17 buildings set for demolition as part of the Lewis Street overpass project.

“We have to know what’s in the buildings in terms of lead and asbestos before we tear it down,” Crutchfield said.

-- The council approved selling a 1998 fire department ladder truck to North Lincoln (Oregon) Fire & Rescue District for $45,000.

-- The council approved placing an item on the Nov. 5 ballot to reduce the size of Pasco’s city limits, if approved by 60 percent of voters. The measure seeks to eliminate two recent annexations in the doughnut hole area in the western part of the city.

The council had considered trying to challenge the measure being on the ballot because of concerns with maps used in petitions that were submitted. The city also felt that the petition should have gone to council first before being submitted to the Franklin County auditor.

But the city determined that challenging the measure would likely go past November.

“I kind of think they have to,” Roger Lenk, who organized a petition putting the deannexation on the ballot, told the Herald. “I don’t think you fight a ballot measure before you go on the ballot. I think you fight it after.”

-- The council approved a $671,184 bid with Allstar Construction Group Inc. of Richland for Americans with Disabilities Act-related upgrades along Court Street between Fourth and 26th avenues. The project, which is being paid for with federal grants, will include curb ramps that aren’t as steep as the ramps there now, as well as pedestrian countdown signals.

-- The council approved naming a new street Saint Francis Lane. The street runs parallel to Broadmoor Boulevard between Saint Thomas Drive and Chapel Hill Boulevard near Tri-Cities Prep.

-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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