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Vader maintains marijuana ban after input from public hearing

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The Vader City Council elected to maintain their temporary ban against medical and recreational marijuana facilities on Thursday, pending further changes in state law.

First passed Jan. 23, the six-month ban prohibits the establishment of any facilities used for the production, processing or sale of recreational and/or medical marijuana, and was intended to allow officials time to examine and respond to rapidly-changing state policy, as well as reconcile federal criminalization of the substance.

A public hearing was held March 21 as a requisite to the ban and, in their following meeting Thursday, the council was asked to approve an ordinance declaring their findings of facts from the hearing, while being afforded the opportunity to uphold, abolish or amend the temporary ban.

When asked to state their findings of fact, all four council members present (Council Member Andy Wilson had been absent due to health concerns) stated it was their belief marijuana businesses posed a hazard both to the morale and reputation of Vader, and also its law enforcement and environmental challenges.

“I don’t think any drug is any good for anyone, unless it’s prescribed and they need it,” said Council Member Mark Fenison, whose sentiments set the tone for the council’s position. “I can’t see this as good for our city or good for our children. It may be good for business, it may be good for money, but I’m not willing to sacrifice our children on the altar of money.”

By unanimous vote, the council agreed to continue the ban until June 23, at which time they expect to examine either a permanent ban or alternatives such as a zoning ordinance.

Present at the meeting was Seattle developer Brandon Milton, who has been attempting to establish a recreational marijuana production and processing facility in Vader’s industrial district.

Milton had said during the March 21 hearing he feels he is being stonewalled in his efforts to communicate with council members and is not be afforded ample opportunity to clarify the information being presented by opponents of his development.

On Thursday, Mayor Ken Smith said Vader’s legal counsel has advised officials to not converse privately with Milton, both because of state laws intended to prevent property owners from influencing zoning decisions, as well as implications made of a possible lawsuit resulting from the council’s actions.

Milton said on Thursday is it not his desire to pursue litigation and, because of new changes in recreational marijuana laws and the recent addition of three new council members in Vader, it is his intention offer updated information, stating he would be willing to do so in whatever public forum the council chose.

The new members of the council agreed it would be beneficial to hear from Milton, perhaps during a workshop before an upcoming regular council meeting, and Smith said his office would begin exploring possible dates for such a workshop.

Opponents of Milton’s proposal said they would like the council to consider allowing them time for rebuttal equal to whatever Milton was given during the workshop, and council members said they would find a way to accommodate both viewpoints within the limited amount of time during the workshop.

The next council meeting is scheduled for April 10 at 6:30 p.m. in City Hall. Those with questions or in need of accommodations may call (360) 295-3222.

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