Battle Ground no closer to acting on pot sales moratorium

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The haze over Battle Ground’s will-they, won’t-they discussion about setting a marijuana moratorium isn’t going away.

The city remains the last jurisdiction in Clark County not to have a temporary moratorium in place banning the sale and production of pot. That won’t change anytime soon. Not even two attempts to address the issue at Battle Ground’s Tuesday council meeting could budge council members, who were split down the middle on exactly how, and when, to act.

The first attempt, made by Mayor Shane Bowman, was to amend Tuesday’s agenda so council members could discuss, and potentially approve, an emergency ordinance for a moratorium. That failed by a 3-3 vote, with Bowman, Deputy Mayor Philip Johnson and Councilman Lyle Lamb voting for it, and council members Adrian Cortes, Mike Dalesandro and Chris Regan voting against it.

Moments later, Cortes made a motion to place the discussion of marijuana-related issues onto the agenda for the council’s next meeting, in February. But that also failed by a 3-3 vote, with Cortes, Dalesandro and Regan voting for it, and Bowman, Johnson and Lamb voting against it.

A potential tie-breaking vote, Councilman Bill Ganley, was absent from the meeting.

Where council members fell on the two split votes hinged on whether they believed it was necessary to immediately approve a moratorium, or whether they wanted to give the community more time to provide feedback.

Bowman said he wanted to approve a moratorium at Tuesday’s meeting so the city would have more time to investigate pend

ing state legislation regarding Initiative 502, which legalized the production and sale of marijuana. One of those bills would require local governments to follow the initiative.

On Jan. 17, Attorney General Bob Ferguson offered an opinion that cities and counties could block marijuana businesses from operating until the federal government legalizes pot.

Last week, Bowman tried to call an emergency meeting at 7 p.m. on a Friday to discuss approving a moratorium. That meeting was cancelled after some councilors, including Cortes, balked at the short notice.

Council members who opposed Bowman’s motion said it didn’t give community members enough time to have their say on the matter, and they felt uncomfortable adding something to the agenda of a meeting already in progress.

“It’s important we do move forward with this,” Regan said. “But we have to do it in a manner that’s open and that we do our due diligence.”

The city has currently received two applications related to marijuana businesses. The businesses have vesting rights, according to Community Development Director Robert Maul, meaning even if the city passed a moratorium, it wouldn’t ban those businesses from taking shape.

In November, the Washington Liquor Control Board said Clark County could have up to 15 marijuana retailers, including six in unincorporated areas governed by county commissioners. Vancouver was allowed six, while Camas, Washougal and Battle Ground were allowed one each. There is no limit on marijuana growing and processing businesses.

Since then, local governments have passed moratoriums on pot shops, with the exception of Battle Ground.

Despite the split on council, Cortes didn’t rule out another discussion on the issue in the future.

“I would like to bring it up again.” Cortes said. “I feel it’s very, very important.”