Draft principles on pot sent to county planners

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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WALLA WALLA — Draft principles for regulating marijuana operations in Walla Walla County are on their way to the county Planning Commission.

County commissioners voted Tuesday to adopt the draft principles, which are intended to act as guides for drafting zoning and development regulations for pot-related businesses.

Commissioners Jim Johnson and Perry Dozier both voted for the motion. Commissioner Greg Tompkins was absent.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jesse Nolte, who acts as the commissioners’ legal counsel, said the draft will next go before the Planning Commission.

Nolte said the hope is for the Planning Commission to have a public hearing in June and for recommendations to be sent back to county commissioners.

County commissioners would then hold a second public hearing to take comments, after which final action could be taken before a county moratorium on marijuana-related zoning and development rules expires in September.

According to the draft, planning commissioners will be asked to make recommendations on what zones recreational marijuana uses should be in and whether additional regulations are necessary.

Planning commissioners will not be asked to make a recommendation on whether an outright ban should be enacted until recreational marijuana use is allowed by federal law. County commissioners agreed in January that they would make that decision.

In an opinion issued Jan 16, State Attorney Bob Ferguson said local jurisdictions in Washington may ban recreational marijuana growing, processing and sales operations if they choose. He said Initiative 502, approved by voters in 2012 to legalize recreational pot, did not address whether local business operations would be mandatory statewide. The nonbinding opinion is is expected to be decided in courts.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318.

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