Marijuana: Hoquiam council can’t make up its mind

Marijuana businesses may soon be legal in Hoquiam — at least for one day.

The current moratorium on the marijuana trade is set to expire Aug. 10, and the next city council meeting is scheduled for Aug. 11.

The Hoquiam City Council took up the issue again Monday night, but once again failed to pass an ordinance regulating marijuana businesses within city limits, and also failed to pass an extension of the existing moratorium.

And even if the council were to ban all marijuana businesses at the next meeting, that one day without regulation could be just long enough of a window for would-be pot entrepreneurs, said City Administrator Brian Shay.

“Someone could come and submit a permit for a business, and it would be grandfathered in,” Shay said.

Council members have been trying since December to pass a marijuana ordinance, but haven’t been able to reach an agreement. Mayor Jack Durney brought the matter back to the table at the latest meeting, urging the group to make a decision before the current moratorium ends.

“I believe strongly that it is no longer an option to do nothing. We must deal with this issue proactively,” he wrote in a letter to the council.

He placed five separate draft ordinances on the agenda, most of which had been considered previously.

Draft A, the original draft proposed by city staff in December, would prohibit all marijuana collective gardens and allow recreational marijuana businesses in industrial areas.

Draft B, recommended by the Hoquiam Planning Commission, would also prohibit collective gardens but allow recreational marijuana businesses as a conditional use in industrial areas.

Draft C, originally proposed at the April 14 city council meeting, would allow marijuana retail businesses in commercial zones, producing and processing businesses in industrial zones and prohibit collective gardens.

Draft D, would prohibit all marijuana businesses throughout the city.

Draft E, first introduced at the meeting by Durney as a compromise, would allow marijuana producing and processing businesses in industrial areas but prohibit all retail businesses and collective gardens.

Before the council began discussing the measures, Hoquiam resident and former council member Jim Eddy, of the Washington State Marijuana League, asked council members to approve an ordinance that embraced the spirit of Initiative 502, which legalized recreational marijuana in Washington. The added businesses would also be good for the city economically, he argued.

“Another business in the City of Hoquiam?” he asked. “That would be nice.”

Three of the 12 council members were absent from the meeting, and approving an ordinance takes seven votes. The most recent vote regarding the ordinance ended in six-to-six tie, and some council members expressed concerns that a seven-vote majority would once again elude the council.

Councilman Ben Winkelman moved that the council adopt Draft C, but only five of the present council members voted in favor. Council members Kay Diehm, Greg Grun, Paul McMillan and John Pellegrini all voted against the measure.

Councilman Greg Grun, who had previously opposed any marijuana businesses within city limits, then moved that the council approve Draft A, but Diehm, Pellegrini and Councilman Richard Pennant all voted no and the measure failed.

Winkelman then expressed some confusion about the vote — especially Pennant’s decision to vote against the measure, given that he had previously been one of the council’s strongest supporters of legalized marijuana businesses. The measure didn’t go far enough, Pennant said.

“If you’re going to allow it, for God sake just do it,” Pennant said. “That would have been like letting someone sleep in your house but then making them sleep in the garage. We’re treating it like the red-headed stepchild.”

Arguing that the council was unlikely to make a decision that night, Councilwoman Jasmine Dickhoff moved that they postpone the discussion to the Aug. 11 meeting.

“All vacations are cancelled for city council people, all illnesses are cancelled,” Durney said.

The moratorium extension met the same fate, with a majority of council members voting against the measure. Some council members argued that an extension would be inappropriate given that the council had been considering the ordinances for so long.

“This has been before the council for months,” Winkelman said. “I don’t see it as being suddenly an emergency of any sort.”

Durney once again expressed his disappointment, and urged the council members to be ready for a vote Aug. 11.

“We should have been prepared for this,” Durney said. “We really should have been prepared. That’s my comment for the evening.”


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