Legal pot in Camas needs citizen input

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Mike Gallagher

OK Mayor Scott Higgins, you asked for it.

No, you’re not in trouble with me. Actually, I have only good things to say about your recent call for input from citizens on Initiative 502 which legalized recreational use of marijuana in our state. Input from local citizens will be critical on how implementation of I-502 should — or should not — impact our local community.

So, here you go. Remember, you asked for it.

Flash back to January when the attorney general issued the opinion that I-502 does not preempt local jurisdictions from regulating marijuana selling, processing and growing within its boundaries.

That opinion should provide the Camas City council with most of the guidance it needs to deal with the pot issue in our city.

The key word there is “regulating.” In Camas, if we’re not comfortable with a pot store coming to town then the city council should set up the rules in advance that the store would have to abide by in order to even apply for a business license. In a nutshell, regulate the heck out of them.

For starters, the law already states that marijuana licenses cannot be issued to businesses located within 1,000 feet of the perimeter of elementary or secondary schools, libraries, playgrounds and a host of other facilities. So Camas could enforce those regulations from the get-go.

Next, since the attorney general left the door open for cities to come up with their own regulations, how about Camas leading the way in prohibiting marijuana businesses from opening in the city until law enforcement knows how in the heck they’re going to deal with enforcement of pot laws?

Earlier this month, Councilman Don Chaney hit the nail on the head when he stated his concerns about new pot laws and the burden on local law enforcement.

So, why couldn’t Camas put in place regulations requiring that the state first has to clearly outline the responsibilities of local law enforcement, and fund all mandates that are required, including officer training to detect levels of driver intoxication, before pot business licenses can be issued?

That wouldn’t be just a potential roadblock for pot businesses. It would be common sense.

Finally, the local business community should have a say in whether they want a pot store as their neighbor, whether they’re in a downtown area, a strip mall, a free standing business or in a mixed-use area. Perhaps Camas could require that a pot business that wants to locate, say in downtown Camas, needs to have 60 percent approval of all existing businesses.

Now realistically, would these ideas of mine to regulate pot businesses in Camas pass the legal test? Probably not. Surely an attorney somewhere would make mincemeat of them in a legal argument.

But it is time for ideas on the issue of legal marijuana to come forward from the community. A pot business isn’t likely to buy the Camas post office and set up shop, but the time may come soon when another site may be considered. Camas citizens and the City Council will need to be united in how they plan to deal with that scenario.