Richland seeks input on medical pot gardens

Richland residents will have an opportunity to voice their thoughts about collective medical marijuana gardens within city limits at Tuesday's city council meeting.

The council will have a public hearing about the six-month emergency moratorium it passed July 19 to allow the city time to review, develop and adopt regulations for growing marijuana in the wake of a new state law allowing collective gardens.

The hearing also is an opportunity for the council to gather more information about the need for collective gardens and citizens' thoughts and ideas on how to regulate the gardens within the city, according to a staff report by City Attorney Tom Lampson.

Washington voters passed Initiative 692 back in 1998, allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes for certain types of patients.

Prior to this year, a group called the Three Rivers Collective has attempted to convince Richland to allow a collective garden and a marijuana dispensary for authorized patients, but organizers were told because the law didn't specifically address those topics, Lampson's interpretation was that collective gardens and dispensaries were not allowed.

The original initiative has been amended a couple of times by the Legislature, most notably during the 2011 session with the bill allowing collective gardens in the state, even though it remains illegal under federal law to grow or possess marijuana.

Lampson wrote in his report that much confusion remains about the law because of a partial veto by Gov. Chris Gregoire -- including a portion that would have created a system of state-regulated dispensaries -- when she signed some of the bill into law.

Her rationale was that portions of the law would put state employees in jeopardy of federal prosecution.

Lampson said he expects bills will be introduced during the 2012 session to further amend or clarify the law.

Kennewick and Pasco also have adopted six-month moratoriums on collective gardens within their city limits, and Pasco is mulling extending its moratorium to a full year to wait and see what the Legislature does in the spring.