Bob Carver and Matthew Mercer represent two diverse opinions about pot production in Finley.
Both men are longtime residents of the rural community, but they see the marijuana industry in different ways.
Carver’s first experience with the drug was this summer when the smell wafted over his property. That odor is keeping his kids from wanting to take over his homestead, a prospect that brought him close to tears.
“I have to be honest, I didn’t know what it was,” he said. “The ones that were interested said, ‘We can’t have our children out here.’ ”
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Mercer’s family rents land to two marijuana producers and sold property to a third. It’s easy to hear the frustration, as he details the efforts they went through to keep their tenants from affecting others.
Finley is an example of a community suffering from the unforseen ramifications of numerous marijuana growers. It concerns me that these facilities are in neighborhoods where children and families are residing.
Tammy Monson, concerned resident
“We’ve implemented a very strict no-odor policy for our people,” he said. “There is no odor coming off of the industrial ground that is managed by us.”
Both men were part of a two-hour parade of people who brought their concerns to Benton County commissioners Tuesday morning during a public hearing about a six-month ban on new pot producers and processors.
Commissioners approved the emergency moratorium in November. Though it’s already is in effect, state law required a public hearing.
Washington voters approved Initiative 502 legalizing recreational cannabis in 2012, but voters in both Benton and Franklin counties rejected it.
Local opposition led to bans in Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, West Richland and Franklin County, leaving Benton County as one of the few places in the region where cannabis businesses could operate legally.
The decision to implement a six-month ban followed several complaints from people living in the Finley area, who said the the smell of the plants affects their daily lives. They were joined by people complaining about a similar cluster of farms in Benton City.
In business, if you don’t grow, you die.
The calls ranged from people asking the commissioners to eliminate marijuana completely to people asking to move grows inside.
“Finley is an example of a community suffering from the unforseen ramifications of numerous marijuana growers,” said Tammy Monson, pointing out an increase traffic and the smell causing health issues. “It concerns me that these facilities are in neighborhoods where children and families are residing.”
Larry Holden, another Finley resident, said he had people sleeping in the ditch in front of his home along with a horrible smell from the plants.
Finley schools Superintendent Lance Hahn and Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, continued to voice their opposition to the marijuana grows in the area.
Sentiments at the hearing were mixed, with at least two medical marijuana patients saying the drug made the difference between them living a normal life and not being able to function.
The Mercer family was joined by the people running the Benton City complex in calling for an end to what Matthew Mercer dubbed a “witch hunt” based on misinformation.
While the moratorium doesn’t halt operations at existing companies, it does prevent them from expanding, Mercer said.
“And in business, if you don’t grow, you die,” he said.
He pinned the blame on illegal grows and individual medical marijuana grows, saying he has done everything in his power to keep the smell, traffic and other problems from impacting the people around him.