Franklin County commissioners take no action taken on pot farm

Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldDecember 4, 2013 

Franklin County commissioners decided Wednesday to take no action on a farming family wanting to expand operations to include marijuana.

Heinen Brothers in Eltopia is one of 22 to apply to the Washington State Liquor Control Board to grow marijuana in Franklin and Benton counties. It also is one of nine to apply to process marijuana under the state's new law legalizing recreational marijuana.

The liquor control board gave the county 20 days to consider the application, but state law limits what the county can base an objection on. Commissioners said they are not allowed to object to the use of the land for marijuana growing.

So they decided not to respond at all.

"I would just put this in a file folder and let the state carry on," Commissioner Bob Koch said.

The county could be at risk of being sued if it stands in the way of licensing a marijuana business, but could violate federal law by approving the business, said commission Chairman Rick Miller.

The Heinens are businessmen and growers of several crops in Franklin County, but Miller said he had not talked with them about their application.

The names of 10 more applicants to grow marijuana were released this week. They are: Headleys Farm and J. Campbell Enterprise in Pasco, Lazy S Ranch and Canyon Budz of Benton City, Rook MMJ Gardens in Kennewick, The Calyx Co. in Prosser, The Riverside Club in West Richland, Danz Farms in Mesa, AG Development Group in Eltopia and Radar Ridge Farms in Connell. The Calyx Company also applied to be a processor.

Two new applicants filed to open marijuana retail stores in Kennewick this week, bringing the total of retail applicants in Benton and Franklin counties to seven. Buds for Life is the name of a store planned at 8620 W. Gage Blvd. and Kennewick Marijuana Store filed to open at 2410 W. Kennewick Ave.

The state expects to start issuing marijuana licenses in February or March with businesses possibly opening in late May or June.

Also Wednesday, the commissioners:

-- Considered requests for money from the Affordable Housing for All program. The program uses a surcharge from certain recorded documents to help groups that try to find homes for people. The money is administered through Benton-Franklin Human Services.

An oversight committee recommended $312,270 go to seven organizations: Catholic Family & Child Services, $29,150 for rental assistance; the Columbia Basin Veterans Coalition, $14,260 for improvements in its houses; Community Action Connections, $126,000 for acquisition and rehabilitation and $27,108 for rental assistance; Domestic Violence Services, $56,328 for its emergency shelter; Elijah Family Homes, $9,974 for its transitional housing fix-up project, Safe Harbor Crisis Nursery, $26,200 for a youth shelter; and Therapeutic Innovations and Recovery, $23,250 for showers.

Commissioners told Human Services Director Ed Thornbrugh to address concerns that Pasco has about using some of the money for staff costs at Domestic Violence Services. Thornbrugh said the money could be used elsewhere in the agency, such as for rental assistance.

-- Asked the public works department to draft rules for commercial trucks and buses that park on county rights-of-way in the unincorporated "doughnut hole" surrounded by west Pasco. Public Works Director Matt Mahoney said the problem is especially bad along Argent Road.

"We're definitely seeing safety concerns when you see young kids walk to school and have to get closer to the travel way (to get around trucks)," Mahoney said.

-- Asked public works employees to work out an agreement that would allow a private landowner to pay to pave Loeber Road near Mesa. County engineer Matt Rasmussen said Ron Loeber would like to pay $175,000 to pave 1.6 miles.

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

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