Camas Planning Commission recommends support of retail marijuana sales

City Council will make the final decision on the issue

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The Camas Planning Commission has forwarded a recommendation to the City Council supporting the establishment of retail marijuana sales in certain zoning districts.

On Sept. 15, following a public hearing, the Planning Commission voted 3-2 to allow retail marijuana sales in portions of the city zoned community commercial and regional commercial. Commissioners Jim Short, Troy Hull and Lloyd Goodlett voted yes, while Bryan Beel and Jamaia Johnson voted no. Frank Hood and Tim Hein were absent.

Currently, retail marijuana sales are banned within Camas city limits in all zoning districts due to an ordinance passed by the City Council in October 2014. That action has a sunset clause that expires Nov. 30. The moratorium was implemented to provide time for some of the issues surrounding legalized marijuana to be addressed.

During the Planning Commission’s public hearing, a handful of people spoke in favor of allowing marijuana retail sales in Camas; one person spoke against.

Camas resident Dan Duringer said legalization of marijuana has a negative impact on the social, economic and physical heath of communities.

“It’s not going to solve a problem to legalize drugs for society, it’s going to create problems,” he said.

According to Duringer, the issue has the potential to threaten the public’s health and safety.

“I like the model we have around here that ‘Camas cares,’ he said. “I just recently saw on the news that as far as the homeless crisis in New York City, that Rudy Giuliani said the reason there is a homeless crisis is that New York doesn’t care. That was his opinion. I don’t want to see that happen here. I want us to look carefully at the consequences of legalized marijuana and increasing the prevalence in our community.”

Richard and Roxanne Renton, of Washougal, own a cannabis farm in Raymond, Washington. He argued that marijuana sales benefit the local economy. The sales bring tax revenue and jobs and also support a need.

“To turn around and make a comment that by Camas saying no means there is going to be less marijuana in this community, I think is putting your head in the ground,” Richard Renton said. “They just go into Vancouver to bring it in.”

Roxanne Renton said currently existing marijuana retailers operate their businesses professionally. They are subject to stringent rules and regulations, and a set of procedures required by the state’s Liquor Control Board.

“It is very safe, and very regulated,” she said. “If that is a concern, it should not be concern to you. The Liquor Control Board is going to control every aspect of this, I can tell you that. They are doing a good job.”

Marc Elkins and Paul Gardner, owners of Elkgard Enterprises,, were selected in a Liquor Control Board lottery for the one available retail marijuana license in Camas city limits.

For the past 1.5 years, they have leased a space at 319 N.E. Lechner St.

“We are just waiting for approval, essentially, to open it at this point,” Elkins said.

He estimates the business’s annual sales will be $7.5 million.

“That would bring $50,000 just in sales tax alone to the city of Camas, along with $35,000 annually, based on the portion that comes from the law that was passed — 2136,” he said.

House Bill 2136 is the legislature’s marijuana market reform bill, which became effective July 1. It includes revenue sharing with cities and counties that have retail marijuana sales.

Elkins pointed out that in 2014 Mill City Brew Werks, a brewery in downtown Camas, won the Excellence on Main Street Economic Vitality Award from the Washington State Main Street Program.

“I think what they did was good for Camas, in terms of bringing business and bringing people to the town,” he said. “I think we have an excellent opportunity to do the same, on a larger scale at the other end of town that is right on the border of Washougal.”

The Camas downtown core is zoned “downtown commercial.” If the City Council supports the recommendation from the Planning Commission to only allow marijuana retailers in properties zoned community commercial and regional commercial, a marijuana retailer would not be permitted in the downtown area.

The property at 319 N.E. Lechner St. is zoned community commercial.

According to Community Development Director Phil Bourquin, at its Oct. 5 workshop the City Council will begin to discuss when it will deliberate the issue and hold another public hearing.

“It will occur prior to the sunset period,” he said.