Clark County: No pot until feds legalize it

Clark County commissioners signaled Wednesday that they are considering an effective ban on all marijuana-related operations.

With a six-month moratorium set to expire in February, commissioners said during a work session Wednesday that they will need to issue another moratorium because they know they won’t have an ordinance adopted in time.

They also directed staff to prepare a draft ordinance modeled after Pierce County’s, which sets restrictions on marijuana facilities but includes a whopper of a caveat: “No application for a marijuana-licensed business shall be approved by Pierce County until such time as marijuana is removed from the schedule of controlled substances at 21 U.S.C. sec. 812(c) as evidenced by a slip law available from the Library of Congress.”

In other words, if the commissioners end up adopting an ordinance modeled on Pierce County’s, the county won’t allow growing, processing or selling of marijuana until the federal government legalizes the drug, said Chris Horne, Clark County’s chief civil deputy prosecuting attorney.

Horne said the beauty of Pierce County’s ordinance is if local jurisdictions are eventually told that outright bans aren’t allowed, the section referencing federal law can just be redacted.

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

The commissioners’ decision didn’t sit well with many of the 60-plus people who attended the work session at the Public Service Center.

Brandon Christy, who has applied to have a retail store in Hazel Dell, said when commissioners approved the moratorium last year they said they needed time to figure out zoning and other logistics.

Christy said he feels as though the commissioners are stalling and wondered what they have been doing these past months when they said they’d research the issue.

“It’s like they are completely abolishing the industry before it even begins,” Christy said.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board has capped the maximum number of pot shops statewide at 334 and said Clark County could be home to up to 15 marijuana retailers, including six in unincorporated areas over which commissioners control.

The rest would be in cities: six stores in Vancouver and one store apiece in Camas, Washougal and Battle Ground.

Commissioner Tom Mielke, chairman of the board, asked basic questions Wednesday such as how many retail stores would be permitted in the county, which was announced by the Liquor Control Board four months ago.

Recreational use of marijuana remains illegal under federal law, but in August, the U.S. Department of Justice said it would not sue Washington, Colorado or other states that wish to legalize marijuana so long as it’s sufficiently regulated.


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