Pasco can benefit from marijuana taxes, man says

A Pasco man and medical marijuana user urged the Pasco City Council to set up rules to allow collective gardens for patients so the city can benefit from taxing their use.

Council members Monday discussed how to move forward after passing a six-month moratorium on starting shared gardens last month.

A state law that went into effect July 22 changes the voter-approved initiative that allows authorized patients to use cannabis to treat some terminal and chronic illnesses to instead allow a single garden to have up to 45 plants grown by 10 patients collectively.

But it still is up to the cities to decide how and where they want to allow the gardens. Cities can use a moratorium as a six-month breather while they decide how to apply zoning, taxation, business licensing and public health and safety regulations.

Pasco, Kennewick, Richland and West Richland all passed moratoriums on shared gardens.

The state law has few restrictions, limiting only the number of plants and specifying the gardens not be in public view.

Right now, patients can't get medical marijuana legally unless they grow it themselves and can have up to 15 plants, said Jerrold Forsyth of Pasco, the medical marijuana patient who spoke at the meeting.

That means some patients get it from drug dealers, he explained. Instead, he said, the city should be receiving revenue through taxes.

Forsyth said he already has the state Department of Agriculture license that would allow him to grow a collective garden if the city passes legislation allowing it. That's a requirement for operating a shared grow and doesn't mean much unless the city approves rules allowing the grows in the city.

Forsyth said he has used marijuana medically for about five years. It has helped him control pain from Marfan's syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects connective tissues.

Forsyth admitted there were issues that needed be considered under a moratorium, but asked that the city council set up regulations for collective gardens as soon as possible.

Figuring out how to reconcile federal law -- where growing, selling and possessing marijuana is a felony -- with state law allowing collective grows is part of why the city needs the moratorium, said Gary Crutchfield, Pasco city manager.

Crutchfield said the issue would come before the council again Sept. 6 at the next regular meeting.

The council can choose to approve rules and end the moratorium prior to the end of the six-month period, he said.

Also Monday:

-- The council voted 5 to 2 to support the 0.3 percent criminal justice sales tax measure on the November ballot. If approved, the revenue would pay for a new and expanded county jail, Pasco Municipal Court space, a Pasco police station and gang suppression. Councilmen Tom Larsen and Bob Hoffmann opposed the measure.

-- Pasco will move forward on negotiating an interlocal agreement to provide sewer to the Port of Walla Walla's Burbank Industrial Park after the council approved the main concepts of a proposal in a 6-1 vote, with Larsen dissenting.