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County planners at odds with commissioners in banning marijuana production and retail firms

YAKIMA – Yakima County commissioners yesterday (Tuesday) set a date for a public hearing to determine the feasibility of implementing a land-use ordinance that would ban the sale, production and processing of recreational marijuana.

Last week the county planning commission recommended such an ordinance be removed from the county codes, stating the language included in the amendments that ban such ventures are vague, “…the fact that the statement goes beyond the marijuana issue and the fact that the statements were overly broad.”

In the planning commission’s findings of fact, submitted to the Yakima County commissioners, the documentation states “The proposed prohibition would use zoning to accomplish a legislative ban (action) and may be considered arbitrary and capricious and subject to appeal. Additionally, the negative impacts/concerns regarding recreational marijuana use will not be resolved through the proposed text amendments since use of recreational marijuana has been decriminalized.”

The planning commission last month held a public hearing during which time more than 40 individuals were in attendance. There were more than a dozen who spoke to the planning commission regarding their concerns and/or support of the proposed ban.

But, most of those individuals spoke against the ban, bringing to question how medical marijuana use and sales would be impacted if the ban were to be adopted.

Mitch Gordon, director of Medical Cannabis Solutions of Central Washington, appealed to the planning commission. He said, “At least have the heart and compassion to take medical out of the mix and give these people what they deserve as being citizens of this community, which is a right to live a day-to-day life pain free…”

The planning commission, having heard from others who expressed similar concerns, indicated there were other factors that contributed to its recommendation to the Yakima County commissioners. “Zoning is an official control to promote compatible and reasonable enjoyment of property,” the planning commission wrote in its findings.

Commissioner Rand Elliott said medical marijuana and recreational marijuana are “…distinctly different issues.”

He said the deliberations currently underway are specific to recreational marijuana retail sales, production and processing.

“The misconception is that this would affect medical marijuana,” said Elliott.

The Yakima County commissioners will weigh in on the matter after its public hearing set for Tuesday, May 27.

Yakima County staff members were asked what was needed to change the land-use ordinances, according to Elliott. “The planning commission said they don’t think the county should have control (of recreational marijuana sales, production and processing) through land-use codes.”

He said the commissioners will listen to the public at the May 27 meeting before making a final decision.

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