Camas extends marijuana moratorium

Public hearing will be held May 19

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STEVE BLOOM/The Olympian

The Camas City Council voted last night to extend a zoning moratorium relating to the establishment of marijuana production, processing and retail sales facilities.

The moratorium gives city staff time to “review and determine the local implications of the state rules, and to assess impacts and potential liabilities under federal law, and to determine an appropriate regulatory framework under those laws.” The moratorium is an extension of the one put into place in November 2013.

The ordinance includes a work plan that sets a public hearing for Monday, May 19, at 7 p.m., at City Hall, providing an opportunity for the City Council to hear citizen opinions pertaining to the retail sale, as well as growing, harvesting and processing of marijuana in Camas.

City staff will develop a list of several zoning options for city council to consider with the goal of adopting a regulatory ordinance by early October, prior to the new moratorium’s expiration on Oct. 21.

“I know that there is probably frustration with continuing a moratorium with people who just want us to take care of it right now,” said Councilwoman Shannon Turk. “I believe this moratorium is necessary because of the additional community input that we are seeking, and we hopefully will receive [on May 19]. I think the dates that are outlined in the work plan are fantastic, they give us clear direction on what we hope to accomplish on what dates. I think this could be the last moratorium that we have to move forward.”

Prior to the adoption of the ordinance last night, a public hearing was held on the moratorium extension. No comments were made.

“The council is really wrestling with conflicting information,” said Camas Mayor Scott Higgins. “We know the initiative passed in the state of Washington, we also know it failed in the city of Camas. The question is, what do the Camas citizens expect this council to do with a passed initiative? And that is, frankly, the reason for the public hearing on May 19.”

According to Clark County Elections Supervisor Cathie Garber, in City of Camas precincts 52.29 percent voted against I-502.

Higgins emphasized that the city is wrestling with issues surrounding the business aspects of Initiative 502.

“The voters approved the initiative, and the city is not trying to change [the recreational use] of it — the legal use in a controlled amount in the privacy of one’s home is not affected by this moratorium,” Higgins said. “This is about how the business is regulated in the city.”

In January, the Washington State Attorney General issued the opinion that Initiative 502 does not preempt local jurisdictions from regulating marijuana selling, processing and growing within its own boundaries.

The Liquor Control Board has allotted one retail marijuana license for Camas. A total of 15 are allowed in Clark County. 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.

Councilman Steve Hogan voiced his displeasure and concern that the state is not providing Washington cities with enough guidance on issues such as those related how the new laws impact local law enforcement and budgets.

“This issue with marijuana is coming to us as a train wreck,” Hogan said. “This is not well defined at the state level at all, [Higgins] and 99 other mayors signed an Association of Washington Cities letter that said we needed to have these things need defined. I think the state has fallen way short of what we need in order to, as a good governing body, figure out how this is going to impact our community.”