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Pullman eyes ban on pot gardens

Sat., Aug. 27, 2011

Moratorium urged over doubts about state law

The Pullman City Council will vote next week on adopting a moratorium on medical marijuana community gardens.

City Attorney Laura McAloon advised the council to take that action Tuesday, saying many other Washington cities, such as Issaquah and Tacoma, have passed such moratoriums. The action would temporarily ban medical marijuana growing operations, she said. Cities and counties are not allowed to pass permanent ordinances that would prohibit the gardens outright.

Changes in state law that took effect July 22 prompted Tuesday’s discussion. Current state law allows up to 10 medical marijuana patients to together raise community marijuana gardens of no more than 45 plants for their personal use.

While cities and counties are allowed to adopt health, safety and zoning regulations or impose taxes or business licensing requirements on the gardens, confusion about the new law makes it difficult to move forward, McAloon said.

Pullman police Chief Gary Jenkins told the council that medical marijuana is an attractive target for thieves, and that there have been cases of dispensaries experiencing burglaries, armed robberies and other violent crimes.

Jenkins also said a single collective medical marijuana garden containing the maximum number of plants allowed under state law could be worth up to $280,000.

McAloon, in recommending the moratorium, noted that “this is a very unclear and muddy area” because state law conflicts with federal law.

“It’s going to change,” she said.

In Washington, individuals with certain debilitating or terminal illnesses can qualify for legal use of marijuana. The law does not protect patients from potential arrest, but it offers some legal protection in court.

Two city councilmen said they saw no need for the city to take action.

Councilman Barney Waldrop noted that marijuana is a federally controlled substance.

“I don’t see how community gardens are any more legal in the city of Pullman than they are in national parks,” Waldrop said.

Murrow News Service provides local, regional and statewide stories reported and written by journalism students at Washington State University.

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