Woodland could again pass on collective marijuana gardens

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

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The Woodland City Council is poised to extend a moratorium on collective marijuana gardens for a third — and most likely last — time later this month.

Councilors are expected to pass another six-month prohibition on the gardens July 15, a week ahead of the current ban's expiration. The issue — whether to allow medical marijuana card holders to grow pot in specially zoned areas, a practice allowed by state law — has created a schism between the council and city staff in recent weeks.

A staff-drafted ordinance that would have allowed collective gardens was met by skepticism by a split council in June. The council never addressed the ordinance, but council voted unanimously July 1 to move forward with another temporary moratorium.

At the heart of the matter, some council members say they are concerned that an ordinance would violate federal laws, which classify marijuana as an illicit drug. At the same time, they say, they don't want to run afoul of collective garden proponents, who have threatened other cities with lawsuits for enacting bans.

Council members say they want to see how the issue is worked out at the state level before moving forward.

"There are so many unanswered questions that policy makers need guidance on," Councilman Benjamin Fredricks said.

Legalized by the Legislature in 2011, the state's collective gardens law allows medical marijuana patients to grow a private stockpile of pot for personal consumption. As many as 10 patients can grow up to 45 plants.

Fredricks said he would support having specially zoned areas, but with tighter restrictions and assurances from the federal government that city staffers wouldn't be open to prosecution.

The questions surrounding collective gardens aren't specific to Woodland. Other municipalities continue to grapple with how to follow state and federal laws in light of how those laws conflict.

La Center and Camas have their own temporary moratoriums on collective gardens, while Clark County will readdress its temporary ban at its next meeting Tuesday. Vancouver voted in December to set aside zoned areas where the gardens could grow.

In a move that technically legalized collective gardens, Battle Ground let its moratorium to expire in July 2012. In a sign of what might be in Woodland's future, Battle Ground hasn't addressed how to zone for the gardens, and there are no plans to do that.

"No one is knocking at our door to set one up," said Robert Maul, Battle Ground's community development director.


Tyler Graf: 360-735-4517; http://www.twitter.com/col_smallcities;tyler.graf@columbian.com.