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Richland bans marijuana businesses within city limits

Richland’s marijuana debate went from moratorium to postmortem Tuesday night.

The city council voted 3-2 to ban marijuana-related land uses within city limits. Mayor David Rose and councilman Bob Thompson opposed the ban. Council members Brad Anderson, Phillip Lemley and Terry Christensen supported the measure. Council members Sandra Kent and Greg Jones were absent.

The vote followed about 30 minutes of public comment. More than a dozen people addressed the council and at least 10 spoke against banning marijuana-related land uses within city limits.

Richland’s moratorium on allowing marijuana-related businesses in the city was set to expire Oct. 15. Rose said Tuesday’s vote goes into effect immediately and supersedes the moratorium. The city’s original six-month moratorium, passed in October 2013, was extended another six months on April 1.

Richland was the last of the Tri-Cities to ban marijuana-related businesses from operating within city limits. City officials cited a decision made by the state attorney general earlier this year that said municipalities could ban marijuana sales and production by imposing zoning regulations.

Anderson prepared for Tuesday’s vote by speaking to two friends who are doctors, he said. He wanted to better understand the medicinal uses of marijuana, since so many residents commenting during public hearings cited the substance’s medicinal value.

“Both of them said zero,” Anderson said of the doctors. “There is nothing. Really, there is no proof.”

Thompson voted against the ban because Initiative 502, passed during the November 2012 election, was the will of the people.

“I don’t think that the local municipalities can opt out of following that law,” Thompson said. “The truth is that people made that decision.”

Marijuana is already a presence in the community and should be regulated, Rose said.

“Those people are going to continue to use it,” he said of marijuana smokers.

Rose would want a family member to be able to pursue medical marijuana if it could help ease pain caused by a health problem, he said.

West Richland, which voted to craft a marijuana ban last month, held a public hearing on its marijuana moratorium Tuesday night. The hearing was well-attended, but the council took no action.