Richland may extend pot moratorium for full year

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 25, 2014 

Richland may join some nearby cities in extending its six-month moratorium on recreational marijuana businesses to a full year.

The city council spent about a half-hour discussing the matter during a workshop Tuesday night. No vote was taken, but the consensus seemed to be that extending the temporary ban was the best option, rather than letting it expire or taking action at this time to ban marijuana businesses altogether.

"I do think it's important to extend the moratorium because I think we have preparatory things to do that are contingent on what's going to happen in Olympia" during the rest of the state legislative session, said Councilwoman Sandra Kent.

She said she'd like to see the city gather updated input from citizens on the issue.

An extension should come back to the council for consideration sometime next month.

The city's existing six-month moratorium on the production, processing and retail sale of recreational marijuana is set to end in mid-April.

It was enacted last fall to give the city time to study the issue and figure out options moving forward. Since then, the state attorney general's office has said jurisdictions can choose to ban pot businesses in their areas. Some have done so.

Others have implemented zoning plans and prepared to issue business licenses.

Locally, the cities of Kennewick, West Richland and Pasco all have extended moratoriums on recreational pot businesses to a full year.

Heather Kintzley, Richland's city attorney, told the council Tuesday that a bill in the state Legislature would allow jurisdictions to share in marijuana excise tax revenue and deal with disconnect between medical and recreational marijuana in the state. "There is value in letting that process play through," she said.

And, city staffers said, they've been working on a zoning plan but more time is needed.

While extending the moratorium seemed to have the most support, council members weren't all of one mind. Councilman Brad Anderson said he favors a ban. He noted marijuana remains illegal federally and indicated he doesn't trust the federal government not to come cracking down.

"With the fact that it's a federal offense -- I'm not putting any faith in the federal government. If they come cracking down, I don't want it to be in my city," Anderson said.

Mayor David Rose said the majority of voters in the state "went through the process and got a law passed, and I feel as elected officials it is our duty to see that law played out." The city should move toward implementing zoning, he said.

w Sara Schilling: 582-1529; sschilling@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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