The Morning Press: Marijuana, freeholders, memorial service

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Here are some of the weekend's top stories and news you may have missed:

Marijuana legalized: Now what?

photoLicensed marijuana growing and processing businesses will begin operations in Washington shortly before the first sales licenses are issued, possibly by the end of March. The creation of a recreational marijuana sales network in Washington has been slower than it was in Colorado because that state was able to piggyback on its pre-existing regulated medical marijuana dispensary network, which Washington doesn't have.

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Judging by the microfilm, Vancouver wasn't overwhelmed by intoxicated hordes when the walls finally fell and legal sales began for what had once been a forbidden drug.

Despite months of arguing over how to tax it, who should be licensed to sell it and what levels of potency would be allowed, the end of alcohol prohibition on Dec. 5, 1933 was a relatively calm affair.

Fast forward 81 years, and we find ourselves in an oddly similar situation, this time with marijuana.

The economy is sluggish at best, state and local governments are strapped for cash and, in two states at least, legal walls are dropping on a drug that's been prohibited federally for a long stretch — 85 years instead of the 13 years for alcohol.

While possession of certain amounts of marijuana has been legal in Washington for more than a year, there still are no stores where adults can buy it. Colorado opened its first recreational markets on Jan. 1, in what was an overwhelmingly smooth launch with no arrests or serious problems — and $5 million worth of sales in the first week.

So what will happen when retail marijuana sales begin in Washington later this year? And where will Clark County find itself in the mix?

There are no simple answers.

Read the full story here.

Freeholders: Add two commissioners

photoFreeholders discuss the merits of an elected county executive at a meeting in late January in the Public Service Center in downtown Vancouver. From left: Jim Mains, Marc Boldt, Jim Moeller, Liz Pike, Ann Rivers, Val Ogden and Randy Mueller.

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Reformers who pushed for a new Clark County charter envisioned an elected county executive as the key to accountability. A majority of the freeholders elected to write the document, however, are leaning away from that approach.

At this point, their intention is to keep an appointed administrator, as in the county's current structure, but with that position reporting to a larger board of commissioners. The number of commissioners should increase from three to five, freeholders agreed at their Saturday meeting.

Read the full story here.

Memorial for hit-and-run victims calls on faith to bring solace

photoWomen look inside Irina Gardinant's casket during the memorial service for her and Raisa Mosh.

(/The Columbian)

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BATTLE GROUND — Hundreds of people gathered here Saturday to grieve the passing of two women who were killed in last Sunday's hit-and-run collision in the VanMall neighborhood of Vancouver.

People quietly filed into the pews at Word of Grace Bible Church in Battle Ground, filling the large hall.

Irina Gardinant and Raisa Mosh's matching caskets were set before a stage that was lined with bouquets including two arrangements — one for each woman — that spelled out "Mom." Gardinant left behind a husband and 2-year-old daughter, while Mosh left behind a husband and four children, including the 12-year-old son who was with her at the time of the collision.

The two women were fatally injured when they were struck by a white pickup while crossing Vancouver Mall Drive around 8 p.m. on Jan. 19. The boy suffered minor injuries in the incident. The pickup drove away.

Read the full story here.

Wind causes more problems in county

photoCrews clean up after wind toppled a carport at the Eight Towncenter at Fisher's Landing apartments on Friday.

(/The Columbian)

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Windy weather toppled a carport at an east Vancouver apartment complex and caused a slew of small power outages throughout Clark County.

Trees blew into power lines, causing an early-morning outage in Vancouver's Cascade Park and Ellsworth neighborhoods that affected 2,066 Clark Public Utilities customers for about 45 minutes. Friday afternoon, 231 customers were out of power for about an hour in southeast Vancouver.

Pearson Field in Vancouver records wind gusts of 23 mph and winds at 15 mph. To the east, in Camas, winds were higher at 28 mph, according to the National Weather Service in Portland.

Read the full story here.

Fourth quarter economic report: Housing uptick gives economy a boost

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If you're in need of some good news in these uncertain times, look no further than Clark County's bustling housing market.

Indicators from last year's fourth quarter reflect a continuing upward trend in home sales, housing prices, and new construction of both single-family and apartment housing. Best of all, foreclosures have declined by more than half in the past year.

That's more than just an upbeat statistical measure of the housing market's health: it's a measure that fewer Clark County residents are having to face the deeply personal tragedy of losing a home.

The big drop in foreclosures likely reflects a number of positive trends. Among them: tighter practices by lenders, more realistic purchasing decisions by homebuyers and rising property values that allow struggling homeowners to avoid selling at a loss.

Read the full story here.