Prosser voted Tuesday night to impose a moratorium on recreational pot businesses within the city limits, while West Richland scheduled a public hearing Sept. 9 to discuss a possible ban.
Prosser's measure passed 5-0. Councilmen Morgan Everett and Marvin Ward were absent, but sent notes to Mayor Paul Warden that they supported the moratorium.
The West Richland City Council had a discussion Tuesday, with members leaning toward an outright ban.
West Richland Mayor Brent Gerry noted that "a variety of different opinions" existed between the council members.
"The consensus I'm getting is that there's a split among the council members this evening," he said.
Gerry said next month's meeting, which could attract between 100 and 150 people, likely will be at Enterprise Middle School instead of the West Richland City Council chambers in order to accommodate community members.
Some of the council members' concerns with allowing a recreational marijuana business inside city limits included a possible increase in usage because of the ease of access a store would provide, what liabilities could be associated with allowing a store to operate, a lack of financial incentive for the city and possible problems arising from over-consumption of marijuana infused foods commonly called "edibles."
Councilman Byron Martin asked rhetorically what kind of business would want to be located next to a recreational marijuana store. At least two council members simultaneously said, "food."
The council heard from Chris Marr of the Washington State Liquor Control Board, who pointed to a 2010-11 study by the nonprofit RAND Corporation that said about 11,400 Benton County residents consume marijuana.
Retail marijuana stores would likely attract about 25 percent of that market, while the rest would continue to get their pot through illegal avenues, Marr said.
Through the first 29 days of legal marijuana transactions, Marr said the state saw about $3.6 million in sales and collected about $1.2 million in excise taxes.
In Prosser, most speakers Tuesday night favored marijuana businesses, believing regulated stores will help take drugs off the streets.
Caleb Wolkenhauer told the city council that medical cannabis cut his epileptic seizures from as many as three a week to one a year.
The Prosser ban does not affect Altitude, a marijuana retail store that opened before the moratorium was enacted.
-- Ross Courtney of the Yakima Herald-Republic contributed to this story.
-- Drew Foster: 509-582-1513; firstname.lastname@example.org