Kennewick weighs banning pot-related businesses

Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldJune 10, 2014 

See the proposed sites of marijuana businesses in the Mid-Columbia at tricityherald.com/marijuana-map.

Kennewick City Council is going to consider banning marijuana-related businesses.

At Tuesday night's meeting, Councilman Greg Jones asked for a proposal to be brought to the council. Three other councilmen echoed his request. A ban will be considered at a future workshop meeting.

Jones doesn't want to waste staff time looking at zoning for those businesses if the city council is going to ban it, he said.

While he is sorry for the people who went through the licensing process, he doesn't want it in his city, he said.

In January, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson ruled that cities and counties can ban pot-related businesses. Washington voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2012 and some businesses are supposed to open as early as July.

The Pasco City Council has discussed banning marijuana-related businesses, but has not taken a vote yet.

Yakima, Pierce County and Wenatchee have banned marijuana-related businesses. But the city of Wenatchee was sued by a prospective business owner this week, Kennewick City Attorney Lisa Beaton said.

Kent's ban of collective gardens recently was upheld by the state Court of Appeals, Beaton said. It's a good case law for local jurisdictions because the reasoning was similar to the reasoning behind the state Attorney General's opinion on recreational pot.

The U.S. Department of Justice has said it will not enforce the law to a certain extent, unless there are minors, gang or criminal activity, firearms or federal property involved. But marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Beaton thinks the lack of regulation of medical marijuana in the state could lead the federal government to take action, she said. The state Legislature failed to reconcile the medical and recreational pot laws during the most recent session.

Local jurisdictions will bear the burden of enforcing the act, but won't receive any of the revenue since the state doesn't plan to share the money it receives from pot sales, said Kennewick Mayor Steve Young.

Five applications for pot retail stores in Kennewick made it past the state Liquor Control Board's prescreening, but a maximum of four will be licensed. There are no limits set on the number of processor or grower licenses.

Prescreened applicants still need to make it through a criminal background check, a financial investigation and an inspection of the proposed shop in order to receive a license.

The city has received notice that a license for a retail shop in Kennewick is pending, Beaton said.

The state will issue licenses regardless of whether a city or county allows pot-related businesses, state officials have said.

However, a city business license would be needed for the business to actually open even if a state license is issued, Beaton said. Kennewick's temporary ban on pot-related businesses expires in October.

Pasco, Richland, West Richland, Connell, Franklin County, Walla Walla County and College Place also have temporary bans to prevent marijuana retailers, growers and processors from opening.

Prosser, Benton County and Walla Walla are allowing recreational marijuana-related businesses licensed by the state.

So far, the state has issued licenses to one business each in Benton and Walla Walla counties for both processing and growing and one license to a Benton County business for growing pot only, according to state data. No retail shops have been licensed in the three counties yet.

The state received 62 grow and 40 processor applications in Benton County, 15 grow and 10 processor applications in Franklin County and 20 grow and 21 processor applications in Walla Walla County.

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

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