Washougal extends medical marijuana gardens ban

By Ray Legendre, Columbian staff writer

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There will be no collective medical marijuana gardens in Washougal until summer 2012 at the earliest after the city’s council voted earlier this week to extend its pre-existing six month ban to a year.

State law enacted July 22 allows for up to 10 people to grow up to 45 plants in collective gardens, a move marijuana advocates said would make it easier for patients with terminal or debilitating medical condition who can’t grow their own crop to obtain it. But city officials across Clark County are squeamish about how the law conflicts with federal law banning all marijuana use.

Cities declared temporary bans on collective gardens in July in order to give them more time to study details including where the gardens should be placed and how the crop would be distributed.

Washougal’s council moved Tuesday night to extend its ban, which started in July, thus taking a wait-and-see approach on the legislature. They joined Clark County commissioners, who last month enacted a yearlong ban on collective gardens for the county’s unincorporated areas.

Meanwhile, Washougal’s east Clark County neighbor, Camas, elected to keep its six-month ban during Tuesday night’s meeting. Both Washougal and Camas have the option of extending their bans at a later date.

“We don’t want to put our employees in violation of federal law,” Washougal Planning Manager Mitch Kneipp said, explaining his city’s decision to increase the ban’s length. He added, “We believe they are going to have to address this issue again. Hopefully, (the legislature will) address the conflict with the federal law.”

1 councilor opposed

Washougal Councilman Michael Delavar was the only member to oppose the extension of the ban. He does not believe the city should assume liability should the ban expire.

“If we actively discourage any dispensaries, we’re basically saying the people’s explicit desire to allow for medical marijuana should be disregarded,” Delavar said.

Gov. Chris Gregoire axed portions of proposed legislation allowing dispensaries for medical marijuana. She did, however, allow for collective gardens.

The Washougal council’s vote followed a public hearing on the collective gardens issue.

Only one person spoke about the gardens during Tuesday’s public hearing. The woman sought to learn how close the gardens could be located to schools, churches or parks, Kneipp said. The state left zoning issues up to individual cities’ discretion.

Kneipp added he has received only one call from a resident interested in the permit process for collective gardens. The person never contacted him again, he added.

Camas, La Center and Vancouver each have six-month bans in place. Ridgefield, Woodland and Yacolt do not.

Ray Legendre: 360-735-4517; www.twitter.com/col_smallcities.