Clark County’s small cities weigh pot decisions

Officials must rule soon if production, sales will be OK'd

By Justin Runquist, Columbian Small Cities Reporter



With time running out for temporary bans on marijuana-related operations throughout Clark County, small local cities will be forced to make a tough decision this spring.

Several of the cities — notably, Camas, Washougal, Ridgefield and Woodland — have moratoriums on all marijuana sales and production set to expire in the next two or three months.

“We do need to move in some direction,” Ridgefield Mayor Ron Onslow said.

Ridgefield’s moratorium will end in May, and the city council plans to hold a study session at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Ridgefield Community Center to explore its options: continue banning marijuana-related operations or allow sales and production within the city limits.

“And I don’t know what the council is going to do,” Onslow said.

The La Center City Council also will visit the issue at a public hearing scheduled for 7 p.m. today at City Hall. So far, the city hasn’t had any indication that anyone is interested in establishing a marijuana retail center in the city, Mayor Jim Irish said.

“We want to make sure we have a chance to hear from the people, what they want,” Irish said. “As far as the county or the state’s concerned, there hasn’t been much guidance about what’s going to be allowed.”

The council will vote after the hearing on a proposed moratorium, Irish said.

Voters approved Initiative 502 in 2012, allowing possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and older. The state Liquor Control Board has decided to allow 334 marijuana retailers throughout the state.

Clark County can have as many as 15 pot shops, with six in Vancouver and six more in unincorporated areas. Washougal, Camas and Battle Ground could have one store apiece. La Center and Ridgefield can’t have pot businesses under the current rules, but officials said they want to be ready in case that changes.

Like La Center, Battle Ground hasn’t put a temporary ban on marijuana-related operations. The Battle Ground City Council remains divided on the issue, Mayor Shane Bowman said.

A number of residents have shown interest in establishing marijuana retail and production in the city, he said. But the councilors want more time to explore their options.

“That’s why you do moratoriums,” Bowman said.

The state mandates that all pot-related businesses be at least 1,000 feet away from schools, playgrounds, child care centers, parks, transit centers, libraries, arcades and recreation centers. For now, pot shops will be allowed in general commercial zones if they meet the setback requirement.

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