Pasco City Council shows support for pot ban

Tri-City HeraldMay 27, 2014 

The majority of the Pasco City Council showed support for banning marijuana-related businesses in the city limits Monday, though one council member gave an impassioned speech for allowing the sales.

The law, if approved, would outlaw the retail sale, growing and processing of recreational marijuana in Pasco, as well as collective gardens for medicinal marijuana.

The council has passed two six-month moratoriums on marijuana businesses, with the second set to expire in September. Voters in Washington approved legalizing recreational marijuana in 2012, though the majority of Franklin County residents opposed it.

Councilwoman Rebecca Francik was the only member of the five present to speak in favor of allowing marijuana businesses. She said the majority of Washington residents supported legalizing recreational marijuana in 2012, even if Franklin County residents opposed it.

“Commerce and justice do not flourish and cannot be fairly dispensed if we allow each jurisdiction to personalize rules for their own local population,” she said. “The argument that individual counties can selectively choose which state laws they wish to obey leads to chaos and inefficiency for our citizens.”

Marijuana is legal under state law, but not federal law. But Francik said the state’s position should trump the feds because the state has allowed its residents to vote on the issue.

“I think that when a city council votes to substitute their personal wisdom over the vote of a democratically certified election, we are taking a step away from democracy,” she said.

But it was Washington that created chaos by bucking federal law, Councilman Saul Martinez said, adding that most of the support for Initiative 502 came from the western part of the state.

“You just put it together, and when it comes to safety of the community, when it comes to where we’re at in Pasco and the history of the Tri-Cities and what it’s done, I just feel that it’s important that we continue to have this prohibition on the use of marijuana, and I’m in favor of it,” Martinez said.

State law allows cities to ban the sale or production of marijuana, but not its use.

The council will have a public hearing, likely in July, before taking a vote on banning marijuana businesses.

Councilmen Bob Hoffmann, who expressed support for a ban at an April 28 meeting, and Al Yenney, who was undecided, did not attend Monday’s meeting.

The council is divided on the issue philosophically, but Mayor Matt Watkins said the issue of the businesses adding extra costs for Pasco is more important, with little tax money set aside for cities.

“I’d like to do the moratorium longer. We can’t,” he said.

Councilmen Mike Garrison and Tom Larsen joined Martinez and Watkins in expressing support for banning marijuana businesses.

With Hoffmann’s vote, Pasco would have a majority in favor of joining cities like Yakima and Wenatchee in banning the businesses.

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

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