Vancouver city council puts hold on plots for pot

Regulations needed to help assure compliance with new state law

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer

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Just days before a new state law goes into effect allowing collective medical marijuana gardens, the Vancouver City Council on Monday unanimously passed an emergency six-month moratorium on them in the city limits.

The law, which goes into effect on Friday, will allow up to 10 people to grow up to 45 plants in collective gardens.

But citing further need to establish appropriate city regulations on where they could be located, how the marijuana might be distributed and other details, City Attorney Ted Gathe recommended the moratorium.

“Without further state guidance, it’s not possible for cities at this time” to set up the right framework for collective gardens or dispensaries, Gathe said.

The Clark County Board of Commissioners passed a similar moratorium last week, citing the same concerns.

The moratorium puts a six-month hold on the establishment, location, operation, licensing, maintenance or continuation of medical marijuana collective gardens or dispensaries. The city council will have a public hearing on the moratorium — not the land-use issues — on Sept. 12. At that time, they could repeal the moratorium, or choose to continue it for the full six months, Gathe said.

The moratorium does not affect the law that allows people the possession of a 60 day’s supply of marijuana for medical use. However, at least one prominent local drug official has an issue with the expansion of the medical marijuana use laws. Mike Cooke, a Clark-Skamania Drug Task Force commander, urged the county commissioners last month to pass zoning restrictions to keep the gardens out of business districts and neighborhoods and away from schools, parks and churches. Limiting the gardens to industrial zones is one possibility, he said.

Code of ethics

The city council on Monday also unanimously approved a new ethics policy for its members.

The issue was debated during four workshop meetings before it was approved. The policy establishes guidelines for how a member charged with a violation of the ethics policy may be investigated and punished, among other topics.

However, the council removed wording regarding conduct of councilors; the body will take up the topic of conduct in a future meeting.

“We need a public statement in our policy affirmatively stating that the respect between the council and the public is two-way,” Councilor Jeanne Stewart said.

Still, all agreed that the ethics policy was better than when they started, a process that took some time, Mayor Tim Leavitt said.

“That’s what our citizens expect us to do: thoroughly vet issues,” Leavitt said.

Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542, http://facebook.com/reporterdamewood, http:// twitter.com/col_cityhall, andrea.damewood@columbian.com.