Whether or not the Clark County Council eventually allows marijuana-related businesses, residents are going to use the drug. Recreational marijuana shops are readily accessible in Vancouver and Battle Ground, allowing people from unincorporated parts of the county to purchase cannabis and take it home for their personal use.
Washington voters approved recreational marijuana in 2012 with 56 percent of the vote. While that has led to numerous retail outlets in the area, primarily in Vancouver, Clark County’s government has maintained a moratorium on such businesses. But it has not stemmed the tide of changing public opinion regarding cannabis, which now has been approved for recreational use in 10 states.
As county councilors reconsider their moratorium, we again encourage them to issue licenses to marijuana businesses. While there are valid questions about the societal costs of marijuana legalization, continuing the moratorium is to fight a losing battle while depriving the county of entrepreneurial businesses and tax revenue.
To be sure, councilors are within their rights to prevent such businesses. State law allows individual jurisdictions to permit marijuana businesses but does not require them to do so, and the 2012 statewide marijuana initiative was rejected in Clark County — 50.3 percent to 49.7 percent. In addition, councilors have been thoughtful in periodically reconsidering the moratorium.
Most recently, the council conducted a work session in which it heard from representatives of law enforcement, youth services and social services. There are, indeed, social costs to marijuana legalization, and you can find competing experts to testify that cannabis does or does not lead to increases in crime, use of other drugs or impaired driving.