The future of marijuana businesses in the Tri-Cities is looking a bit hazy — Benton County, which has allowed recreational marijuana businesses, is considering a moratorium on new retail stores.
The county is one of the few government entities in the area to authorize the production, processing or sale of recreational pot, though it has already placed a temporary ban on new production facilities.
Commissioner Shon Small said at last week’s meeting that the county initially took the advice of prosecutors and decided to observe while other counties and cities put in moratoriums.
But Small now wants to take a stand against it because many people oppose the stores, he said.
Commissioners are expected to discuss the issue today, when Commissioner Jerome Delvin is expected back.
“After all, the attorney general did say we can say no to selling it, and we wouldn’t get sued,” Small told the Herald.
The discussion comes at a time when a Finley medical marijuana dispensary switched in August from being a delivery service to having a walk-in facility, boasting that it’s just five minutes from the cable bridge.
Jennifer Goulet, an employee at Green2Go Collective Gardens, said the facility applied Oct. 12 for a recreational marijuana retail license, on the first day a second round of applications became available with the state Liquor and Cannabis Board.
The Finley business looks a bit like a medical office, with a waiting room featuring a fireplace and TV. But the television provides information about medical marijuana and a menu board shows a variety of cannabis strains, like Black Betty, Obama Kush and White Russian.
A tarp blocks off an entrance to an adjoining room, where a “glass shop” is being built as part of the transition to a recreational store. It will sell pipes, bongs, rolling papers and other items more associated with recreational marijuana use, Goulet said.
“We’ve got a lot of patients who are very excited for that to happen,” she said.
Green2Go shifted to a walk-in facility and is now seeking to become a retail store because state law will change July 1, 2016, merging recreational and medical marijuana programs.
It plans to continue to sell items for medical use, Goulet said, including candy bars and drinks with cannabidiol, which has medical uses without the hallucinogenic properties of THC.
People who are registered with a state Department of Health database will be able to buy medical marijuana products without paying the 37 percent recreational tax, Goulet said. Recreational buyers would have to pay the tax.
Green2Go should be grandfathered to sell recreational marijuana if the county law changes, Goulet said.
“It shouldn’t be (impacted),” she said. “We are already here. We are in an area that is zoned for it to be legal.”
Green2Go would be the first recreational store in the eastern part of Benton County, Goulet said. Two stores are now in the Prosser area — Altitude, which opened as the first recreational marijuana store in the Mid-Columbia in July 2014, and The Bake Shop, which opened last month in an unincorporated area west of Prosser.
Meanwhile, Lucky Leaf, which was shut down in August by Pasco officials, has a Nov. 4 state appeals court date in Spokane, said the store’s owner, David Morgan.
Franklin Superior Court Judge Alex Ekstrom ruled that the city has a right to prohibit such businesses while the case winds through the court system.
Luck Leaf opened in July in the King City area, despite Pasco’s ban on such stores.
Morgan plans to use a similar argument to the one used by Clarkston marijuana stores, which appeals court Commissioner Monica Wasson recently ruled can stay open during the legal process, he said.
But Morgan also hopes to get the city to find a solution to the stalemate. He recently submitted a letter to the city, which he says was rejected, asking it to grant him a yearly conditional use permit.
Walla Walla offers two such permits to recreational marijuana retailers, collecting $1,500 annually from each, he said. Morgan offered to pay $5,000 per year for the permit, much more than the Walla Walla stores.
Morgan also disputed claims that local governments wouldn’t get much from marijuana excise taxes, which the state recently changed the law to allow them to collect money from. If Pasco had two retailers, it could expect to collect $133,200 in taxes for the city, basing the numbers off what six retailers in Vancouver, Wash., bring in, he said.
Morgan attended the Kennewick City Council’s workshop meeting last week. The council discussed a possible ban on “nuisance” outdoor medical marijuana grows, which can be seen or smelled from other properties.
Morgan was interested in comments made a week earlier by Kennewick Councilman Bob Parks, who suggested legal marijuana sales could help prevent such outdoor growing. Like Pasco, recreational marijuana stores are banned in the Kennewick city limits.
The lifting of Kennewick’s ban could mean Morgan would be able to transfer his state license there, or get Pasco to take a second look at its ban, he said.
“It seems like when one city’s on board, the other two get on board,” he said
Source: Benton County to consider ban on new retail marijuana stores | State News | yakimaherald.com