Benton City has become the second city in Benton County to authorize marijuana sales and processing, joining Prosser.
On a 3-2 vote, the city council this week passed an ordinance that allows for marijuana retail businesses, as well as processing. Pot production is already allowed in Benton City.
Four years ago, Washington voters approved Initiative 502 legalizing recreational use of marijuana, although a majority of Benton County voters opposed it at the time. The result is that the legality of production, processing and retail sales varies by jurisdiction in the Mid-Columbia and statewide.
Richland and Kennewick ban marijuana-related retail and processing businesses. West Richland bans production, processing and retail sales.
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Benton City Council’s vote to legalize retail and processing business follows a Nov. 8 advisory ballot. With 1,068 votes cast, nearly 53 percent of voters supported legalization.
The council called for the nonbinding vote after a heated council meeting in April. The election cost the city an estimated $22,000.
In April, Benton City residents were divided over legalization. At a heated city council session, opponents called it the wrong move while supporters called it a smart business decision that will help the community and generate new tax revenue.
Currently, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board has licensed five pot producers in Benton City.
State Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, who is a Benton County Sheriff’s deputy and serves as a school resource officer at Kiona-Benton City High School, said Thursday that he’s disappointed.
I’m heartbroken that this is going to happen.
Rep. Brad Klippert
“I’m heartbroken that this is going to happen,” he said.
Speaking for himself and not the sheriff’s department, Klippert said he’s investigated marijuana on campus numerous times. In one instance, a well-regarded student confessed to dealing marijuana she’d stolen from her father.
As a lawmaker, Klippert said he would support recriminalizing marijuana.
“I will shut this down the first chance I get,” he said.
In the end, the city council divided along the same lines this week as it did in April.
In both cases, council members Vanessa Coates, David Sandretto and Jake Mokler supported the marijuana ordinance, while council members Lisa State and Mary Lettau opposed it.
In Benton County, there are two authorized marijuana-related retail businesses in Prosser and one in Finley. Franklin County has no authorized retailers.
Benton and Franklin counties each have several marijuana-related producing businesses.