Washougal Planning Commission recommends prohibition of retail marijuana sales in the city

The next public hearing will be held during Aug. 22 City Council meeting

A recommendation to prohibit the retail sale, processing and production of recreational marijuana within the city limits of Washougal will be forwarded to the City Council.

The Washougal Planning Commission voted 4 to 2 Tuesday night, to remove a Sept. 1, 2016 sunset clause that was part of a ban instituted two years ago.

The new recommendation would prohibit the retail sale, processing and production of recreational marijuana, as well as medical marijuana cooperatives, previously known as collective gardens, indefinitely.

Jason Dodge, Larry White, Jim Reinhart and Meridee Pabst voted to remove the clause, while Jeff Olson and Larry Wagoner voted against it. Mike Lamb had an excused absence.

Prior to the vote, White said he recently visited marijuana shops.

He was impressed with the professional way they are run, but he is concerned youth might think it is acceptable to use marijuana if there is a store selling it.

“Heavy use [of marijuana] by youth can cause some medical problems and lead to schizophrenia,” White said.

Wagoner said prohibition does not work.

“It enhances the black market,” he said.

“Adults should have the right to buy marijuana in a store and not buy it on the street,” Wagoner added. “It is very professional and regulated [in a retail location.]”

During a public hearing, Dan Duringer, a Washougal resident, expressed concerns about the proliferation of marijuana and spoke in favor of making the prohibition permanent.

During the commission meeting, as well as the City Council meeting Monday, he referred to a survey conducted by ETC Institute, involving 411 Washougal residents in 2014. Fifty-six percent of the respondents said they did not support marijuana retail sales in Washougal, at that time. Sixty percent indicated they did not support marijuana production and processing, in the city.

Bobby Saberi, a partner at Mary Jane’s House of Glass and Glass Productions, also spoke to commissioners and councilors.

He talked about plans to move the company’s corporate headquarters from Vancouver to Washougal, later this year.

Saberi said Mary Jane’s has more than 100 employees at several locations.

Alex Yost, co-owner of OurBar, in Washougal, said she is in favor of regulation and enforcement concerning the marijuana issue.

“We can’t bury our heads in the sand,” she said.

“Individuals should decide what is right for themselves,” Yost added.

Richard and Roxanne Renton, of Washougal, operate Kush Farms, Inc., in Raymond, Washington. Their business grows and processes marijuana.

The Rentons would like to do that, closer to home.

“We do not use marijuana,” Roxanne said. “This is a business. It is very regulated and safe.”

A public hearing will occur during the council meeting, Monday, Aug. 22, at 7 p.m., in the council chambers at City Hall, 1701 “C” St. The council is expected to vote on the marijuana sunset issue after the hearing.