Kennewick planning commissioners unanimously decided Monday to recommend that the city council ban marijuana-related businesses within city limits.
That decision was made without any public deliberation, but the comments from some of the 20 people who attended the meeting were split.
Residents on both sides of the issue claimed crime would increase, but for different reasons.
Tim Adams said the price of marijuana will lead to more crimes, such as home invasions and robberies.
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The price of legal pot, with all the taxes and fees as set out in Initiative 502, will drive up the black market cost, leading to more problems, he said.
Lorna Runge compared the possible crime impacts of pot to what the community already sees with liquor, including vehicle crashes. The police are stretched thin now and don't need anything else added, she said.
Some spoke in favor of banning marijuana outright, though the decision being mulled by city officials is banning marijuana-related businesses. Others urged city officials to give the new law a chance.
Candyce Crumb is concerned about the potential health effects of smoking pot, she said. Her mother started smoking cigarettes before people got wise to the health ramifications and now has to use an oxygen tank to breathe.
Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, said marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug, which means it has a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use.
"We do not need that as a recreational drug here," he said.
John Noble is concerned that legal marijuana would make it easier for children to get it, he said.
Leaha Ann McCabe understands the concern about children accessing pot, but pointed out the law only allows recreational use for adults age 21 and older, she said. Kids aren't going to have access to legal marijuana businesses.
Marijuana has been the only medication that has been able to help McCabe since she was severely injured, went through five surgeries and needed a host of different medications, she said. She now suffers from cancer but no longer has seizures and doesn't take any other prescribed medication.
"I'm not high, I'm medicated," she said.
Daniel Colon said the city should reconsider and embrace the pot industry like it has the wine industry.
A majority of Kennewick's council is prepared to permanently ban the businesses. A temporary ban already is in place preventing any businesses from opening, even if the state Liquor Control Board approves licenses.
Kennewick has been approved for up to four pot retailers by the state, but none have received a state license to operate. The city's current temporary ban expires Oct. 15, but if council decides to approve a permanent ban, it would end as soon as that ban goes into effect.
Recreational marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and it's clear federal law preempts state law, City Attorney Lisa Beaton said.
The U.S. Department of Justice has said it will not enforce the law to a certain extent, unless there are minors, gang or criminal activity, firearms or federal property involved. But Beaton said that doesn't change the law.
Pasco already has permanently banned pot-related businesses. Richland and West Richland are considering doing so.
And Prosser -- which has the Tri-City area's lone legal pot shop -- imposed a temporary ban on any new pot businesses last week.
The Kennewick City Council will consider the ban Sept. 2. That meeting likely will include another public hearing.
-- Kristi Pihl: 509-582-1512; firstname.lastname@example.org