UPDATE: Collective marijuana gardens still hazy in Woodland

City council split on whether to let temporary moratorium sunset




The Woodland City Council is split on whether to end a temporary moratorium on collective marijuana gardens and allow them to bud within specifically zoned areas of the city.

Councilors tabled an ordinance Monday that would have created interim zoning regulations for gardens open to medical marijuana card holders. The decision not to vote came two weeks after a June 3 meeting at which the ordinance was deadlocked in a 3-3 tie. Because the city council twice failed to pass the ordinance, it’s effectively dead.

Councilors Al Swindell, Marshall Allen and Susan Humbyrd voted in favor of the ordinance June 3; Benjamin Fredricks, Scott Perry and John Burke voted against it. Councilwoman Marilee McCall was absent from the meeting.

Councilors will have a shot at drafting and passing an alternative ordinance or extending the city’s moratorium. But time is running out. The moratorium expires July 22, and if that happens, Mayor Grover Laseke said, the city will enter “a legal gray area.” It’s unclear what the legal status of collective gardens in Woodland would be if that happened, he said.

Laseke, who’d pushed councilors for an up-down vote, said he was disappointed the ordinance wasn’t addressed Monday.

“I don’t care what the decision is,” he said, “as long as we get it on the books.”

He said the city had spent six months investigating the ramifications of the ordinance. The state legalized collective gardens in 2011.

In a May 30 letter to Laseke, City Attorney William J. Eling said there was no consensus on a best alternative for the city.

Because Washington’s collective gardens law is seen as conflicting with a federal prohibition on controlled substances, city officials who voted against the ordinance say they’re worried about the repercussions of passing it.

Fredricks, who opposed the ordinance, said there were too many unanswered questions to pass the ordinance as it was written.

“We have no assurance from the federal government that local officials will be immune from prosecution,” Fredricks said. “So we need to look at that.”

The city’s draft ordinance would have allowed collective gardens to take shape provided no more than 10 patients were growing pot at one time. It also set guidelines on how much marijuana could be cultivated, saying the plants could produce no more than 24 ounces of usable pot per patient.

Outdoor gardens would not have been allowed within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, churches or residential treatment facilities under the ordinance.

Fredricks has drafted an alternative plan for the city, calling for more time to investigate how the state’s other marijuana reforms take shape.

The council could address alternative ways to move forward with collective gardens as soon as its next workshop, June 24.

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