The Kennewick City Council will vote on restricting outdoor medical marijuana grows at its Oct. 20 meeting.
The council heard Tuesday about a recent change to state law, which allows cities to issue civil penalties against people who allow their marijuana plants to be seen or smelled from adjacent public or private property.
City Attorney Lisa Beaton said the marijuana nuisance law would be similar to other code enforcement cases, which are driven by complaints.
“Just like we deal with leaves, junk, debris, things of that nature,” Beaton said. “Our enforcement is really limited to abatement and civil penalties at this point.”
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The law would apply to all medical marijuana grows, even those with fewer than the 15 plants allowed by law, she said.
Beaton didn’t specify what the potential fines would be.
Still, the change could be temporary. Beaton expects the state to give cities even more power starting next summer, allowing potential criminal penalties against people who violate the marijuana nuisance law.
Speakers at the council’s Oct. 6 meeting complained of marijuana growing in neighbors’ yards. They said the plants smell bad and create a safety risk, pointing to a recent Pasco break-in where shots were fired.
Beaton was asked whether the growers’ private property rights would be violated under the ordinance. Code inspectors would be able to identify the plants without having to go into people’s yards, she said.
“The photographs I’ve seen were taken from a public right-of-way — it’s pretty clear,” Beaton said.
Medical marijuana growers should take precautions and cultivate their plants indoors, if necessary, she said.
“The issue is not that you can’t possess these plants,” Beaton said. “The issue is, that if you are going to keep these plants, your neighbors shouldn’t have to be bothered by it.”
The council also discussed a new building for the Columbia Park Golf Course’s clubhouse, which the majority of council members said they would actually like to repurpose an old building for.
Golfers now use a trailer to pay before they play at the course, while an aging former clubhouse is unused.
Several options were shown, including building a new portable clubhouse and building a permanent new metal or wood-framed building. But council members favored relocating a building that now sits near City Hall, which is also estimated to be the least expensive option at $479,923.
The building would be gutted and moved to the park, where it would be renovated, officials said.
“I think it promotes sustainability in the community,” Mayor Steve Young said.
The old clubhouse building would be demolished.
Moving the building would also free up space near city hall for other uses, Councilman Paul Parish said.