Editorials

Agree or not, why not hear your people out on pot, Richland?

Legalize Richland responds to council decision

Jenn Goulet, Legalize Richland spokesperson, says the group intends to sue to lift Richland's cannabis sales ban after the city council shelved a petition signed by more than 2,700 registered voters.
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Jenn Goulet, Legalize Richland spokesperson, says the group intends to sue to lift Richland's cannabis sales ban after the city council shelved a petition signed by more than 2,700 registered voters.

Elected officials should listen to all their constituents even if they know they will disagree with some of them in the end.

If they don’t, an unhealthy frustration can take hold in a community that makes people feel shut out, angry and discontented. People need a chance to be heard.

For that reason, the Richland City Council should have taken public comments on its citizens’ request to lift the ban on cannabis sales in the city.

Instead, council members discussed the subject among themselves last week in a workshop. No opportunity has yet been given to people wanting to give their opinion on the issue.

We imagine if public comment had been allowed at an official meeting, it would have been a robust discussion — probably heated and emotional as well.

But that’s no reason to duck open dialogue.

Controversial topics, especially, should be aired in as transparent a manner as possible.

We are not saying we support allowing marijuana businesses to operate in Richland or any other city. We also aren’t saying there should be an advisory vote on the ballot.

But we do think it’s a shame that those who want to discuss this issue in a public forum have yet to get the chance.

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Brennan Linsley AP file photo

This issue has been brewing since late November when more than 2,700 Richland voters signed a petition calling on the city council to either lift the marijuana ban or let the voters make the call.

Initially the effort was blocked because the city’s attorney said the petition was invalid on a couple of legal issues. But that wasn’t going to stop the conversation.

Legalize Richland is a well-organized, determined group that believes Richland residents should not have to drive to Finley or Prosser to get a product that is legal to buy and use in the state.

The state’s voters approved legalized marijuana in 2012, but the measure was carried by people living mostly in the urban centers of the west side. Eastern Washington largely opposed the initiative.

Richland ended up joining other cities in the region and banned marijuana retailers. But now, members of Legalize Richland want that decision reversed.

At the workshop last week, the council discussed whether to submit the matter to voters for an advisory ballot. By consensus was against it.

“I do not think the attitude of the people of this town has changed. I do not support an advisory ballot, said Mayor Pro-Tem Terry Christiansen.

He may be right, but at least 2,700 voters who signed the initial petition don’t agree. Why not hear the people out?

Now members of Legalize Richland say they will sue for a chance to put the matter to a vote, and that they will push their case to the state Supreme Court if they have to.

Too bad the community couldn’t talk this out first.

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