At least 4,500 people want cannabis retail stores to sell in Richland
An expected Tuesday update on a petition to legalize marijuana sales in Richland is not on the city council’s agenda.
Last week, the Richland city manager told the council it would receive information about the validity of the citizen-led petition at its Dec. 4 meeting.
But when the council agenda came out, it didn’t mention Legalize Richland, the arm of the Benton County Libertarian Party pushing the city to reverse its pot sales moratorium or to put the issue on the ballot.
The council talked about it Nov. 20 despite it not being on the published agenda. At the time, City Manager Cindy Reents confirmed the topic would return Dec. 4.
“We will receive and see information on the Dec. 4 council meeting,” she told the council in open session.
Previously, the city’s communications office also told the Herald, “If the petition is determined valid, it will be presented to council on December 4, 2018.”
City officials have said the matter would be reviewed by the city’s attorney.
The city has not announced the official validation of the petition, which could explain why it is not on the agenda.
However, Mayor Bob Thompson and other city officials could not be reached on the issue and whether it will be talked about on Tuesday.
City Clerk Marcia Hopkins confirmed there is no plan to discuss Legalize Richland on the council calendar.
Though Legalize Richland isn’t on the Dec. 4 agenda, citizens may bring it up during the public comment period, which is unscripted.
Andrue Ott, chairman of Legalize Richland, was surprised the city wasn’t scheduled to talk about the issue Tuesday. He’s encouraging supporters to attend the session and give their views anyway.
“They’re going to start hearing from us a lot,” he said. “We’re prepared to take this as far as we need to.”
Washington voters legalized cannabis when they passed Initiative 502 in 2012.
The measure failed in the Mid-Columbia, leading Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, West Richland and Franklin County to pass local bans. Benton County joined them this year, but only after several retail shops, growing operations and processors opened in unincorporated areas.
Legalize Richland argues Richland residents should be able to choose for themselves, and that the city stands to benefit from taxes collected on sales in the city.
It submitted petitions Nov. 6 with more than 4,500 signatures calling on the city to lift the moratorium. Two weeks later, a draft certificate showed that 2,713 signatures were valid, enough to qualify for consideration.
Under Richland’s charter, the city council has 30 days from the date of validation to act. Otherwise, the request goes to voters. Ott said he hopes to see it go on the ballot as early as February.
Tuesday night’s meeting begins with a workshop at 6 p .m. The council will recess into executive session for more than an hour to discuss an employee review and litigation.
The regular session begins at 7:30 p.m. in the city hall council chambers, 505 Swift Blvd.