Tri-City area officials ponder stance on pot businesses

Tri-City HeraldMarch 16, 2014 

Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, West Richland, Connell and Franklin County all have temporary bans in place to prevent marijuana retailers, growers and processors from opening.

The state attorney general recently ruled that local governments can impose such bans.

The Legislature adjourned last week without overturning those bans and without reconciling the state’s recreational and medical marijuana laws.

That leaves Tri-City area elected officials without much guidance as they ponder what stance to take.

“We want to see where the winds blow, where the lines are drawn,” said Connell Mayor Bruce “Blacky” Blackwell.

Connell has a ban on pot-related businesses in place until Sept. 14. But the potential impact on the city is softened somewhat because of how parks are spread out in the small town, Blackwell said. There aren’t many places where pot-related businesses would be allowed to open under the state’s rules.

Both Prosser and Benton County, on the other hand, are allowing recreational marijuana-related businesses licensed by the state.

Steve Zetz, Prosser city planner, said the city council wasn’t interested in passing a moratorium since the state does the licensing.

Businesses who are licensed by the state will be able to open in areas as allowed under state law and current zoning, he said. For example, pot retailers will still need to locate on property zoned retail.

State legislators suggested about 14 bills during the legislative session that ended this week that could have changed how Initiative 502 is implemented and what options local governments have.

Most did not make it out of the chamber where they were suggested. A few did, but none of them were passed by both the House and the Senate before the bill cutoff dates during the short session.

Some of the bills would have addressed discrepancies between the state’s recreational and medical marijuana laws. For example, by moving medical marijuana sales to licensed recreational retailers and adding more retail locations to accommodate medical needs.

And one bill would have allowed the state Liquor Control Board to penalize local governments that ban pot or make it impossible for pot businesses to open. The state agency would be able to withhold shared liquor revenue from offending local governments and sue them in court.

Kristi Pihl: 509-582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com

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