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Saturday, December 2, 2023
Dec. 2, 2023

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Vancouver approves law governing pot

City council praised for resisting 'reefer madness,' taking action


Clark County’s first law regulating the growing, processing and selling of recreational marijuana was approved Monday by the Vancouver City Council.

Initiative 502, which legalized possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and older, was approved by voters in 2012.

The council vote was 6-1. Councilor Bill Turlay voted no because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and he wanted to be the voice of the voters who opposed I-502. Councilors Bart Hansen, Larry Smith, Jack Burkman, Alishia Topper, Anne McEnerny-Ogle and Mayor Tim Leavitt all emphasized the importance of following the will of the voters.

Leavitt said he appreciated the residents who testified during a public hearing, which included two people who were appalled the city was regulating marijuana.

“I believe we have a responsibility to develop an ordinance to implement the voters’ initiative,” Leavitt said.

Despite a full audience in the council chambers, only about 10 people spoke during the hearing.

James Barber Sr. congratulated the city council on moving forward and not falling prey to “reefer madness,” as he said other local governments have done.

County commissioners, who govern unincorporated areas, have said they won’t allow marijuana businesses until the federal government legalizes the drug. As for the other three local cities authorized by the state to have businesses, Camas and Washougal have ongoing moratoriums, and Battle Ground has not taken any action.

Monday’s vote means rules will be in place later this month, when the state anticipates approving licenses for growers and processors. The state anticipates retail licenses won’t be ready until at least June, city planner Bryan Snodgrass said Monday.

The Liquor Control Board has capped the maximum number of pot shops statewide at 334, including 15 in Clark County. No more than six stores can be within Vancouver city limits, however. The stores must be in community and general commercial zones and, by state law, have to be at least 1,000 feet from schools, playgrounds, recreation centers, child care centers, parks, transit centers, libraries and arcades.

Additionally, the city council said stores must be at least 300 feet apart and close by 11 p.m.

Snodgrass hasn’t yet seen any applications for retail stores, but has identified several locations that meet the criteria. Those include sites on Mill Plain Boulevard near Interstate 205, on Fourth Plain Road east of state Highway 503, on Southeast 164th Avenue south of Mill Plain Boulevard and on Fourth Plain Boulevard west of Interstate 5.

An uncapped number of growers and processors will be allowed in light and heavy industrial zones.

Businesses issued a state license will also have to receive a city business license.

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