This has quietly been a big week for marijuana regulations in Clark County, with Camas finalizing a ban on recreational pot businesses and Battle Ground ending its prohibition on collective gardens.
The two small cities made the decisions Monday night. Following a debate about the appropriate length of a new ban, the Camas City Council came to a compromise, outlawing growers and processing businesses while putting a temporary prohibition on pot shops.
For retail, the ban will carry on through the end of November next year. If the council lets the sunset date come and go without taking any action, the ban will simply expire and pot shops could begin opening in Camas in December 2015.
With Councilor Linda Dietzman absent, everyone but Councilor Melissa Smith voted to adopt the ordinance.
“I’d like to see it six months or less,” Smith said, referring to the length of the new pot shop ban. “Why can’t we kind of try it and work out some kinks, if there are any?”
Camas planning commissioners unanimously felt a year would give state lawmakers enough time to address some of the problems cities have with Initiative 502, which legalized recreational pot, said Phil Bourquin, the city’s community development director. Among the list of concerns for many local leaders is the fact that the law directs no tax revenue from recreational marijuana operations back to cities.
Councilor Steve Hogan said he originally hoped to set the sunset date further out, but he realizes the continued delay is frustrating to those looking to open a pot shop, such as Vancouver resident Paul Gardner. This spring, Gardner and his business partner, Marc Elkins, held the winning retail lottery ticket for what could have been the only pot shop in Camas.
“You know we would run a very organized, well-run store that is viable, legitimate and legal,” Gardner told the council, pleading for an end to the ban. “And we believe that a one-year sunset is too long.”
Even so, Hogan said the council can’t count on state legislators to address all the shortcomings of I-502 by the end of next year.
“I’m just going to say it: I don’t have a lot of trust in the state Legislature to dot the I’s and cross the T’s the way I’d like to see them do it, but I hope they do,” he said.
Aside from Vancouver, Battle Ground is the only city in the county without a ban on recreational pot shops. Meanwhile, collective gardens have fueled years of debate in the city as officials continue to navigate the murky waters of the state’s medical marijuana regulations.
Battle Ground enacted its first ban on collective medical marijuana grows in July 2011, shortly after the Legislature gave its stamp of approval for the public to run collective gardens. A series of short bans followed, but that came to an end Monday with a unanimous vote to allow indoor collective gardens in specific commercial zones.
The new law goes into effect in about a month, permitting collective gardens in places zoned as light industrial districts, community centers and regional centers. The gardens will have to be blocked from the view of nearby public or private property, and no advertising or signs related to the garden will be allowed on the outside of the building.
They also must adhere to a 1,000-foot barrier rule: No collective garden can exist within at least 1,000 feet of any school, child care center, library, religious institution, playground, community center, recreational pot business or other collective garden.
In May, Battle Ground Mayor Shane Bowman criticized the Legislature for failing to tie up loose ends in medical marijuana regulation as confusion lingered for many local officials. The law also failed to adequately address security needs for collective gardens, Bowman said.
According to state law, health care providers can write recommendations but not prescriptions for medical marijuana. Patients can grow a small amount in their homes or in collective gardens.
On Thursday, the Ridgefield City Council will consider a proposal to ban recreational marijuana businesses while allowing collective gardens on a limited scale.
The plan calls for limiting collective gardens to 10 members and 45 plants, said Elizabeth Decker, a planning consultant for the city. All grows would have to be indoors with security and odor controls, and restrictions regarding the location of gardens would apply.
If the council doesn’t adopt new regulations, its moratorium on recreational marijuana businesses will expire on Nov. 24, Decker said.