MOXEE — Moxee is set to begin allowing marijuana growers and processors to open up shop in city limits, but Moxee City Council members still aren't sure how they feel about allowing retail sales of the drug.
On Thursday, the city council unanimously lifted a moratorium on state licensed marijuana growing and processing, but instated another six-month moratorium on marijuana retail shops, City Supervisor Byron Adams said.
Adams said the city is hesitant to become the first in Yakima County to allow retail marijuana sales because of concerns related to traffic and safety. But a few communities, including Union Gap and Sunnyside, appear likely to allow retail sales as well as growing and processing.
Even if retail sales are eventually allowed in Moxee, the state's 1,000-foot buffer rule keeping those businesses from public gathering spaces such as parks and libraries would eliminate most parts of the city.
"I don't know truly if there are any parcels that could be developed for retail," Adams said.
According to the state Liquor Control Board's list of marijuana business applicants, only one business, Orgrow, has applied to grow and process marijuana within Moxee city limits. Washington has received thousands of applications across the state for producer and processor licenses but is yet to issue any in Yakima County.
Orgrow is owned by Paul Weaver, a co-owner of Weaver Flower Company in Moxee. Weaver's brother, Ken, said the business has had positive dealings with the state, but banking issues may get in the way of the business opening, which would be housed in the same building as the flower company.
"The banks informed us they don't want any part of a comingled operation," Weaver said.
Weaver added the two have an underlying mortgage on the building, and the bank could threaten to declare them in default if they use the site for marijuana growing.
Although the federal government is drawing up rules to allow marijuana businesses to use banks, Weaver said a number of banks still intend to refuse their business because marijuana remains illegal federally.
"We're looking at all kinds of options," said Weaver, who also has a pot retail application pending in Union Gap. "There are ways around it but they all take time."
The city of Moxee's identity is tied closely to the fields of hops surrounding it. Hops, coincidentally, are in the same family of plants as marijuana.
"Hops are big in Moxee and marijuana may be big in Moxee too," Adams said. "You never know."