Washougal Planning Commission to discuss recreational marijuana issues

Work session, public hearing set for July 22

The Washougal Planning Commission will soon address the issues of potentially banning the retail sale, growing and processing of recreational marijuana within the city limits — with an expiration date.

The city is working on an amendment to its development regulations. The amendment would state “no use that is illegal under local, state or federal law shall be allowed in any zone within the city.”

The issue will be up for discussion by the planning commission during a work session Tuesday, July 22, at 5:30 p.m., in the council chambers at City Hall, 1701 “C” St. Public comments will be accepted.

A public hearing, in front of the planning commission, is tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m.

After the planning commission works on language for a prohibition of any uses that are illegal under federal law, the issue will return to the Washougal City Council.

A public hearing will be held during a council meeting in August, according to Community Development Director Mitch Kneipp.

A ban could have a sunset clause of July 1, 2015.

Kneipp said the state legislature needs to firm up the rules in order to avoid having the federal government stepping in.

“A lot of people have pointed to a memo, dated Aug. 29, 2013, from U.S. Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, saying that this memo says the federal government is ‘OK’ with Colorado and Washington regulating marijuana,” Kneipp said. “It definitely doesn’t say it’s ‘OK,’ but it does list the federal priorities of enforcing the Controlled Substance Act and notes that if states do their part to protect the federal priorities then the feds will most likely not do anything.”

That is not a given, and the memo mentions that states and local governments need to implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems that will address the threat those state laws could pose to public safety, public health and other law enforcement interests.

“I don’t believe the legislature has done enough to satisfy the federal government in this regard, and they will be working to address it,” Kneipp said.

He thinks the legislature will address the “disconnect” between recreational marijuana and medical marijuana by combining the two under one regulation.

“They most likely will look at legislation that will redirect some of the profits to local jurisdictions, whether that be to law enforcement or other areas,” Kneipp said.

There is also a possibility legislators could look at preemption. State law would preempt local regulations, and local jurisdictions would have no say on regulating marijuana uses within their jurisdiction. They would all be regulated by the state.

A moratorium, regarding the retail sale, processing and growing of recreational marijuana within the city limits of Washougal, is in effect until Sept. 1. A moratorium in Camas has an expiration date of Oct. 21.

Clark County Commissioners David Madore and Tom Mielke have voted to ban the establishment of marijuana production, processing and retail sales facilities in the unincorporated areas of the county.