The Vader City Council has decided against passing a recreational marijuana moratorium after being advised by their insurance provider a moratorium would likely not hold up if challenged in court.
The Association of Washington Cities (AWC) had published a legal opinion in September warning that cities who pass moratoria as a substitute for banning recreational marijuana will likely not be able to defend themselves against a lawsuit, as current state laws clearly allow the cultivation, processing and sale of marijuana by licensed individuals.
During the council’s Nov. 19 meeting, when it was expected a moratorium would be passed, Mayor Ken Smith shared AWC’s opinion with the council, stating he felt it would be in the city’s best legal interests to avoid a moratorium and proceed with regulations identifying how recreational marijuana facilities can be zoned.
The council was not prepared to act on such regulations during their regular meeting and scheduled a workshop for Friday and a special meeting for Tuesday, at which time they are expected to have reviewed a new marijuana ordinance.
Smith told council members during the workshop state law already regulates recreational marijuana heavily and, though the council has the ability to further regulate marijuana in town, he cautioned them against passing laws too prohibitive, as the city may find a suit on its hands.
"The city could add more stringent requirements on it," he said of state laws, "but then you might expose yourself to legal action on the part of the developer because you exceed the state regulatory requirements."
He added it may be possible for the city to take no action and simply uphold the regulations the state has in place, stating he feels current zoning laws defining agricultural uses are clear enough to allow marijuana growth and processing in industrial zones.
Vader’s only industrial zone is currently the proposed location for a marijuana facility, with developer Brandon Milton stating he has already submitted his application for a recreational marijuana license to the State Liquor Control Board and said he expects the approval process will take a number of weeks as the state examines both his current facility, his proposal, and any feedback from either city officials or residents.
It was the attitude of Council Member Janet Charlton the city should officially adopt the state’s standards, if such standards are already rigorous, while Council Member Kevin Flynn said the city should look at an ordinance passed by Mossyrock Sept. 12, which explicitly denies business licenses for recreational marijuana facilities on the grounds marijuana continues to be considered a dangers substance and illegal, according to federal standards.
Flynn also said he has been informed by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office crime rates are expected to rise in areas where recreational marijuana facilities are established, though Milton replied it is his understanding crime rates would go down as legal marijuana facilities would put illegal marijuana grows out of business. Town Crier had been unable to confirm Flynn’s statements with the Sheriff’s Office by press time.
It did not seem clear by the end of the meeting specifically how the council wished to proceed, either by utilizing another ordinance passed by a similar city, or by taking no action and allowing developers to adhere solely to state laws.
A meeting on Tuesday had been scheduled to bring potential ordinances to a vote, and for updates on said votes, as well as up-to-date figures on how many cities in the area have been the subject of marijuana applications, visit www.hometowndebate.com.