Pasco measure to ban pot businesses; council to vote next week

Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldJuly 14, 2014 

The Pasco City Council introduced a proposed ordinance Monday night to ban recreational and medical marijuana businesses in the city and plans to vote on it next week.

City planning staff drew a map that included all the zones in Pasco where marijuana growing, processing and sales would be illegal because of the state law banning such businesses within 1,000 feet of places where children gather, such schools, libraries and day care centers.

But Pasco's proposed map, which was created at the request of Councilman Bob Hoffmann last week, took the regulations a step further and banned marijuana businesses within 1,000 feet of all city parks, including the trails running along the Columbia River and Interstate 182.

The council ended up shooting down the idea for an enhanced zoning map, instead deciding to move forward with an outright ban of all marijuana businesses.

Had the council approved the zoning map, it would have kept David Morgan of Pasco from opening his planned Lucky Leaf store at 404 W. Lewis Street, a location the state Liquor Control Board previously approved.

Mayor Matt Watkins said the city may possibly reconsider the ban next year if the state legislature makes changes to the law. He is concerned about differences between state law, which legalizes marijuana use, and federal law, which bans it. He also cited the lack of tax money that cities see from sales, and problems with the medical marijuana system.

"There are a number of recreational users under the medical scenario," Watkins said. "I don't think that's right."

The city will have issues to deal with whether it allows marijuana sales now or in the future, Morgan said after the meeting. The sooner it approves the businesses the sooner it can deal with them.

"I think we're going to deal with law changes and rule changes," Morgan said. "There would be a learning curve if we were to start three years from now."

Watkins did not allow any public comment on the issue at the meeting, saying people had a chance to speak at the July 7 public hearing, and they could also email council members with their concerns.

Morgan's supporters clapped loudly after Mayor Pro Tem Rebecca Francik, the only member to say she will vote against the ban, said she would not support an ordinance that goes against the wishes of 56 percent of the voters in Washington, which passed Initiative 502 in 2012.

"My whole entire life, I've told my children, 'Your vote counts,' " Francik said. "I feel that when you have to tell your children that your vote doesn't count, that's a sad day."

But Councilman Al Yenney responded that 61 percent of Franklin County voters opposed the initiative legalizing marijuana.

"I might not be representing the whole state, but I'm pretty well assured I'm representing the citizens of Pasco," he said.

While thanking the city for paying attention to his issue, Morgan disputed the city's map that would have kept his business from opening, even if marijuana businesses were technically legal. He said such zoning allows the black market to continue.

He pointed out that the business is a few blocks from the city's police station.

"I think we need to make sure that, when we zone, we keep that in mind," Morgan said.

Morgan plans to discuss his planned store this week with the Downtown Pasco Development Authority, which has a work plan for downtown redevelopment, he said.

If the council approves the ban next Monday, it would replace the temporary moratorium currently in place.

Also Monday:

-- The council heard a report on attempts to put out an underground fire at the closed Pasco Sanitary Landfill, which has been burning since November. Chuck Gruenenfelder, site manager for the project, said liquid carbon dioxide was injected into the fire, which is burning in a 20-by-40 square foot area between seven and 21 feet below ground, on June 26 and June 27. Another injection is planned later this month, with a final injection in August. If the fire, which is burning up to 700 degrees, is still not extinguished, officials will consider excavating the area, which consists of municipal waste from the 1970s and 1980s.

-- The council heard a proposal to build the city's first new park in more than two years at Road 60 and Three Rivers Drive. If the council approves an agreement next week, the city will work on the park with the Pasco School District, which is building Barbara McClintock Stem Elementary at the site. The city's estimated portion of the cost is $420,000. The city plans to develop five acres, while the school district will develop eight acres, according to city documents.

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

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