Franklin County extends pot ban

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldMarch 11, 2014 

Franklin County commissioners extended a moratorium on marijuana-related businesses in unincorporated Franklin County that was set to expire at midnight Tuesday.

A special meeting was held Tuesday afternoon because commissioners last week could not come to an agreement on extending the temporary ban on pot retailers, processors and growers.

Commissioner Brad Peck supported continuing the temporary ban last week, but Chairman Bob Koch opposed it. Commissioner Rick Miller was absent.

This week, Koch was absent and Peck and Miller voted 2-0 to continue the moratorium for up to six more months.

The state Liquor Control Board recently started issuing licenses for recreational marijuana businesses as allowed by Initiative 502. State officials are planning for a gradual rollout of the newly legal industry, with at least a few retailers opening in June.

Kennewick, Pasco, Richland and West Richland have temporary moratoriums on pot-related businesses within city limits. Benton County is allowing marijuana-related businesses in the unincorporated county as long as they meet all state guidelines and rules.

The state has received applications for 14 grower licenses, 10 processors and 11 retailers in Franklin County, including the incorporated areas, according to recently released data. The number of processor and grower licenses have not been limited, but the number of retailers is. The state plans to allow up to four retail locations in Pasco and one in Franklin County outside Pasco.

Ryan Verhulp, Franklin County's chief civil deputy prosecutor, told commissioners the prosecuting attorney's office and planning department were waiting on feedback from commissioners on whether the moratorium should be continued to allow for time to develop local regulations addressing recreational pot businesses.

Peck said the county needs to wait a bit longer, giving the state Legislature and the Liquor Control Board more time to come out with any new rules and regulations. He expects that will happen in the next 30 to 90 days.

The moratorium can be lifted early, he said.

Miller agreed more time was needed to see what changes will be made.

Sharon Louise, who has applied to grow marijuana in Franklin County, told commissioners she hopes the moratorium can be lifted as soon as possible.

Louise, who is in the process of buying property for her business, said the state's criteria for issuing a license to grow marijuana are rigorous.

She said she hopes the state will consider allowing the counties to receive some of the tax revenue from I-502.

-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com

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