Vancouver IDs possible areas for collective medical marijuana gardens

City, which was sued over issue Tuesday, could lift ban by year's end

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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Collective medical marijuana gardens, which have been subject to extended moratoria in Clark County, are proposed to be allowed in Vancouver's heavy industrial and light industrial zones.

Clark County has been working on lifting its temporary ban on gardens in unincorporated areas, as well.

The Vancouver Planning Commission will have a public hearing on the topic at 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 415 W. Sixth St.

The Vancouver City Council will have its public hearing at 7 p.m. Dec. 3. at City Hall.

Community and Economic Development Director Chad Eiken said Wednesday that collective gardens would have to be in buildings secured with deadbolt locks. A garden could not be within 1,000 feet of any public or private school, park, community center, day care center or another collective garden.

Heavy industrial and light industrial zones include areas such as the Port of Vancouver, Columbia Business Center and Columbia Tech business park.

A person would not need a city permit for the collective garden, but would be required to notify the city, Eiken said.

Under the proposed ordinance, collective gardens will have to be closed for distribution of marijuana between the hours of 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. Sales of drug paraphernalia would be prohibited, as would be signs or symbols identifying the collective garden.

Last year, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a law that says a maximum of 10 patients can come together and plant a collective garden with no more than 45 plants. But she vetoed many other sections of a legislative bill meant to provide a structure to regulate and license the use, distribution and processing of medical marijuana.

The governor left it up to local governments to establish those guidelines.

On Tuesday, a Vancouver man, James Kennedy, filed a lawsuit against the city in Clark County Superior Court, alleging that the city does not have the authority to regulate collective gardens.

Vancouver City Attorney Ted Gathe said local jurisdictions can adopt zoning, health and safety requirements on the production, processing and dispensing of marijuana.

Eiken said whether or not Initiative 502 passes — it would make recreational marijuana use legal for adults age 21 and older — won't affect the need to have regulations on collective gardens. The restrictions on collective gardens would also not apply to limited use of medical marijuana by patients with certain conditions, which has been legal since 1998.

The city first enacted a six-month moratorium on collective gardens in July 2011. The extended moratorium will expire at the end of this year, and the city council plans to have an ordinance in place by the time it expires, Eiken said.

Meanwhile, Clark County commissioners have an extended moratorium set to expire in June 2013, but it could be lifted as soon as zoning rules are in place.

Axel Swanson, the board's senior policy adviser, said Wednesday he's been following the city's work closely. The Clark County Planning Commission is slated to consider a proposed ordinance in early November, and the county commissioners have a work session scheduled Nov. 28. Swanson said the county will also be doing outreach with neighborhood associations.


Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.