Washougal Council to vote again on retail marijuana ban

Special meeting will consider emergency ordinance Aug. 29

The Washougal City Council did not have the necessary four affirmative votes to continue indefinitely a ban on the retail sale, processing and production of recreational marijuana within the city limits of Washougal.

During the Aug. 22 council meeting, the vote was 3 to 2, to remove a sunset clause that is scheduled to expire Sept. 1. If the clause is not removed or extended, the retail sale, processing and production of marijuana, as well as medical marijuana cooperatives, could take place in Washougal.

Recreational marijuana was decriminalized, for age 21 and older, with the passage of Initiative-502 in November 2012.

In January 2014, the state Attorney General’s Office issued a formal opinion concluding that I-502 does not does not preempt local jurisdictions from regulating marijuana selling, processing and growing within their boundaries.

The Washougal matter will be reconsidered during a special council meeting Monday, Aug. 29, at 7 p.m., in the council chambers at City Hall, 1701 “C” St. At that meeting, five “yes” votes will be needed for the emergency ordinance to go into effect immediately.

During the Aug. 22 council meeting, Brent Boger, Paul Greenlee and Joyce Lindsay voted for the original ordinance with an amendment that suggested an advisory vote by Washougal residents take place during the November 2017 General Election.

The advisory vote would be regarding whether the ban should remain in place. The amended ordinance would also move the sunset date to Jan. 31, 2018.

Dave Shoemaker and Dan Coursey voted against the amended ordinance. Prior to the vote, Shoemaker said the councilors were elected to make decisions.

Councilors Jennifer McDaniel and Michelle Wagner had excused absences from the meeting.

A standing-room-only crowd of more than 50 people attended, and at least half of them spoke during a public hearing on the marijuana issue. They included people who identified themselves as business owners, church pastors, grandmothers and high school students.

Ann Donnelly, an advocate for the mentally ill, spoke against the retail sale of marijuana in Washougal.

She said some people self-medicate with marijuana rather than use prescription, anti-psychotic medications.

“They end up in jail, the ER or worse,” Donnelly said.

Former Council member Connie Jo Freeman asked councilors to “just say ‘no’ to the drug culture.”

She wants Washougal to be known for its recreational swimming and hiking opportunities, not marijuana.

Washougal School District Superintendent Mike Stromme encouraged the council to not support the sale and production of marijuana in Washougal.

“The district has been engaged in a local partnership with the City of Washougal, faith-based organizations, parents, students, community advocates and local agencies to focus on solving the problem of youth substance abuse,” he said. “Passing an ordinance that allows the production, processing and sale of marijuana appears to sanction permissibility of drug use and runs counter to the efforts of the aforementioned coalition partnership.”

Eileen Elliot moved from Seattle to Washougal five years ago.

She said marijuana has helped people she knows with terminal illnesses when they experience nausea.

“This helps their appetite,” Elliot said. “Medical marijuana helps chronic pain.”

Chris Rafn has lived in Washougal for 26 years.

He is opposed to the production of marijuana.

Rafn said some people who use marijuana end up using harder drugs and put themselves at risk for car accidents and unemployment.

“Any revenue would be sucked up by crime and social programs,” he said.

Richard Renton, co-operator of Kush Farms, Inc., in Raymond, Washington, said the use of alcohol can cause liver cancer, and yet, manufacturers of alcohol are allowed to promote their products.

He said times have changed during the past four years, and he requested a poll be taken in the city.

Kush Farms grows and processes marijuana.

Bobby Saberi, a Washougal resident since 1980, is a partner in Mary Jane’s House of Glass and Glass Productions, of Washougal.

“Allow the cannabis industry to thrive,” he said.

In 2014, Mary Jane’s House of Marijuana was ranked first in a lottery for a retail marijuana store in Washougal, as determined by the Washington State Liquor Control Board.

Brandon Brock, chief executive officer and co-founder of Mary Jane’s House of Glass, said he wants to bring investment to town.

“Cannabis is legal,” he said. “People appreciate having access to it in town, versus driving 30 minutes to get it.”

Prior to a decision by the Camas City Council in October 2015 to prohibit the retail sale of marijuana within city limits, Marc Elkins, owner of Elkgard Enterprises, had planned to open a marijuana retail business in Camas at 319 N.E. Lechner St.

At that time, he had been renting the space for 1.5 years.

In 2014, Elkins was selected in a Liquor Control Board lottery to receive the one available retail marijuana license in Camas city limits.

“Camas lost $100,000 in revenue,” he said. “It could be spent on youth drug prevention.

“It would have increased foot traffic in the east side,” Elkins added.

He and his wife, Amy, are part owners of Mary Jane’s House of Grass, at 8312 E. Mill Plain Blvd., Vancouver.

City Council budget discussions, deferred from the 3.5 hour council meeting Aug. 22, are also expected to occur during the special meeting Monday.