Thursday, September 24, 2020
Sept. 24, 2020

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Commissioners ban recreational marijuana facilities outside city limits

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The Clark County Board of Commissioners approved a ban Tuesday on the processing, production and sale of marijuana within its jurisdiction despite statewide legalization.

Commissioners David Madore and Tom Mielke affirmed the ordinance, effectively banning retail marijuana businesses from taking root on unincorporated land. They cited federal law outlawing marijuana as a motivating factor in making their decision.

“It’s important to recognize we’re an arm of the state government and the federal government,” Mielke said. “And the state and the federal are not in agreement.”

The ban is similar to one passed this year by Pierce County. The ordinance calls for marijuana processing and sales to remain off limits on county land unless the federal government legalizes it. That comes despite the passage of Initiative 502, approved by voters in 2012, which legalized the production and retail sale of marijuana.

The commissioners’ decision Tuesday was expected by many. Commissioners had long voiced their opposition to marijuana businesses’ developing on county land. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s written decision this year that local jurisdictions could ban recreational marijuana businesses added clarity to the process.

Mielke Tuesday said allowing marijuana sales would add strain on county resources, including law enforcement. A lively crowd that filled the commissioners’ boardroom Tuesday disagreed, at times loudly and profanely. Late in the meeting, sheriff’s deputies were called to the boardroom to observe the proceedings.

Comments at Tuesday’s hearing tended to focus on the potential loss in revenue for the county from banning the industry. The state allowed up to six retail licenses within the county’s jurisdiction.

Attorney William Baumgartner asked why the commissioners weren’t interested in trying to make money off a newly legalized industry — one that has a built-in market.

“I think this is a bad business decision,” Baumgartner said, adding that he was a pro-business Republican. “It’s highly regulated, it’s policed and it’s taxed. That money could be spent here on schools or parks.”

Stan Green, a member of Citizens Against Marijuana Production, Processing and Proliferation, said the group supports the ban.

“Marijuana operations are offensive in the rural zones and are contrary to the Growth Management Act, which established resource lands for the protection of resources,” Green said.

He added that growing marijuana on rural land would have a negative effect on tree farms.

While Mielke acknowledged he hadn’t read the rules for I-502, he said he was worried about the unintended consequences of allowing marijuana facilities on county land. Madore said he’d “partially” read the rules for I-502 but was following his conscience in upholding the ban in rural areas.

The county had implemented two temporary bans on the retail production, processing and sales of marijuana. The first was in August; the second in February. The second six-month moratorium sunsets in June.

“As local representatives, we represent the people,” Madore said. While I-502 passed a statewide vote, it failed in Clark County.

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