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Pasco considering a halt on legal marijuana

PASCO – The city of Pasco is pondering on a six-month moratorium on producing, processing and selling legalized recreational marijuana within city limits.

The Tri-City Herald reported the Pasco City Council says it needs more time to review the possible impacts of a state-regulated marijuana system, which voters approved last fall with the passage of Initiative 502.

Councilman Saul Martinez said legalized marijuana puts the city at risk of violating federal law and interfering with what Washington voters want.

“This puts us between a rock and a hard spot,” he said.

City attorney Leland Kerr said cities can set six-month or yearlong moratoriums on marijuana-related businesses. The longer moratorium would require the city to show it is putting together a work plan for approving the businesses.

The first licenses for marijuana-related businesses in the state are expected to be issued late this year or early next year.

The council is expected to vote on the moratorium at its Sept. 3 meeting. A public hearing is planned for Oct. 7.

Moratoriums have served Pasco well in the past, City Manager Gary Crutchfield said. He cited the Liberty Theater, which was converted into an adult establishment in the 1970s.

“The city had no ordinance on the books saying, ‘You couldn’t do that,’ or a set of regulations on how you could,” he said. “Had the city been aware of what was coming into the community and put a set of rules in, the city would have been in much better position.”

Earlier this month state officials said they want to delay for a few months final rules for selling, growing and processing recreational marijuana in Washington, after hundreds of people attended public meetings around the state to air their thoughts on the proposed rules.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board staff now wants to present proposed rules to consider Sept. 4.