Marijuana hearing draws comments

Additional council discussions are expected before June

The Washougal City Council plans to “wait and see” if state legislators approve bills related to the production, processing and sales of recreational marijuana.

A public hearing was held last night, regarding the council’s Dec. 2, 2013, approval of a six-month moratorium prohibiting all uses allowed under state Initiative 502.

I-502 allows individuals 21 and older to possess and use marijuana-related paraphernalia and any combination of one ounce of usable marijuana, 16 ounces of marijuana infused product in solid form or 72 ounces of marijuana infused product in liquid form.

Individuals are subject to criminal prosecution for possession in amounts greater than that or possession of any quantity or kind by a person younger than 21.

I-502 was approved by voters in 2012.

During the public hearing, Tim Kutchera said he opposed the production, processing and sales of marijuana in Washougal.

Kutchera, a retired volunteer with the Washougal Fire Department, recalled responding to a fatal vehicle accident, in which the driver had been on a “pot binge.”

He said his son, a high school freshman, has been approached by a teenager with marijuana in a sandwich bag.

Harvey Olson, a retired Seattle police officer, said a new Attorney General in three years could enforce federal law “and close everyone down.”

“That could present a problem for cities,” Olson said. “City officials could be charged with aiding and abetting.”

Councilman Brent Boger said it would be unwise to ban retail sales of marijuana completely.

He suggested it be restricted to industrial zones.

Councilman Dave Shoemaker referred to a report issued by the Little Hoover Commission, in California, that determined marijuana could be considered a gateway drug.

Shoemaker served on the commission, which looked at ways to treat addiction, from 2002 to 2004. It advised the governor and legislature on the effectiveness and efficiency of state government.

While agreeing with other councilors to wait and see, Councilwoman Connie Jo Freeman said she “wanted to do the right thing and stand up for the sake of our youngsters.”

Washougal Community Development Director Mitch Kneipp said limited retail is allowed in industrial zones.

“Drug dealers don’t go by zoning codes,” Freeman said.

“Legal ones do,” Boger said.

Kneipp said there have been three applications for marijuana production licenses in Washougal, two applications for processing and six for retail sales.

Clark County has been allotted 15 retail marijuana licenses. That includes six for the unincorporated county, six for Vancouver, and one each for Camas, Washougal and Battle Ground.

State Liquor Control Board staff are developing guidelines for a retail license lottery, since there are more applicants than available licenses.

Gordy Euler, with Clark County Community Planning, said there are no limits in state law on the number of marijuana producers, but there is a limit of two million square feet statewide that can be designated for marijuana plant canopy. There are no limits in state law on the number of processors.

New marijuana licenses cannot be issued to businesses located within 1,000 feet of the perimeter of elementary or secondary schools, playgrounds, recreation centers or facilities, childcare centers, public parks and transit centers, libraries and game arcades.

The Camas City Council approved an emergency moratorium on Nov. 4, 2013, for all I-502-related uses until April 14.