The Richland and Kennewick city councils on Tuesday reaffirmed their decisions to declare six-month moratoriums on medical marijuana gardens within city limits.
Both cities declared moratoriums in July when a new state law went into effect, allowing authorized medical marijuana patients to grow plants together in collective gardens.
The law is an extension of an initiative voters approved in 1998 allowing certain patients with terminal illnesses and chronic pain access to medical marijuana.
The law passed this year allows patients to grow up to 45 marijuana plants in a shared garden, with a limit of 15 per patient, but also allowed cities to impose moratoriums while they figure out issues like zoning, taxation and business licensing.
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The Pasco City Council voted earlier this month to extend its moratorium to a full year.
Richland and Kennewick could have done the same, but their city attorneys recommended sticking with six months for now, starting on a work plan for how to implement the law, and then extending their moratoriums later on if necessary.
Kennewick City Attorney Lisa Beaton said Tuesday's action means city staff will have time to consider various issues related to growing marijuana in a cooperative garden, said City Attorney Lisa Beaton.
"The city does not have any regulations for this type of activity. There could be vandalism, theft and burglaries around these gardens," Beaton said.
But despite Washington's leniency for medial marijuana gardens, federal law still makes it illegal to grow or possess marijuana.
Richland City Councilwoman Sheila Sullivan asked City Attorney Tom Lampson how the city can reconcile conflicting state and federal laws.
"I don't know that we can even get there," Lampson said. "The moratorium gives us a chance to try to work it out."
The West Richland City Council on Tuesday had a public hearing on the moratorium it declared in August, but no one testified.