The Pasco City Council voted 6-1 Monday evening to ban recreational and medical marijuana businesses in the city limits.
The council had been discussing the ban since April, shortly after it passed a second six-month moratorium on marijuana sales, growing and processing in the city.
Kennewick, Richland and West Richland, as well as rural Franklin County, have passed temporary bans, but haven't taken the step to stop sales permanently.
"I'm still convinced this community is not ready for this," Councilman Saul Martinez said before the vote. "I'm not scared to go out and try new things. I just don't see how this particular subject is beneficial for our community."
Mayor Pro Tem Rebecca Francik, the only member to vote against the ban, said the council was making a clear departure from its normal practice of putting in place statewide initiatives passed by voters, regardless of whether it agrees with the vote.
"It does not matter that the attorney general has said local communities can deny zoning marijuana businesses. If we as a council tonight support the ordinance to ban marijuana sales in our city, we are elevating our own ethics over the votes of our fellow citizens," she said. "We will allow members of the county to consider themselves exempt from the results of statewide votes."
The 25 attendees at the meeting could pick up literature from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws as they entered the council chamber. The information argued against some council members' claim that the state law clashes with federal law, by pointing out statements from the U.S. Justice and Treasury departments saying they would not prosecute Washington and Colorado residents in compliance with state law.
Jedidiah Haney, executive director of Cause-M, a Yakima-based marijuana trade association, told the council that it is important for people looking to start marijuana businesses to be visible, as David Morgan, who wants to open a store in downtown Pasco, has been. Banning sales, while allowing marijuana use, will only encourage the black market to grow, Haney said.
"Now we've inflated the black market," he said. "We've fanned the flames."
Morgan plans to move forward with his store on Lewis Street by putting in the needed security system to get his state license, even though it will have to remain closed.
"I will not be able to open for business in Pasco, but I'd like to invite the council to the store to do a walkthrough and show them how it is going to operate with all the security measures in place," he said.
Morgan added that, by getting his license in Pasco, it will make it easier to get a license in a city that does allow marijuana sales if the city doesn't change its mind.
"If they don't want it here, I'll just move on down the road," said Morgan, a Pasco resident who works in Internet design.
Liquor Control Board spokesman Brian Smith said nothing in Initiative 502, the law passed by voters in 2012, allows for residents to vote to overturn local bans.
That leaves courts as the place where the bans by cities and counties are likely to be fought.
The Liquor Control Board will continue to issue licenses in places where marijuana businesses are banned, Smith said.
-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543;firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom