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Saturday, October 19, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Leaders consider allowing marijuana transporters in Spokane Valley

UPDATED: Tue., July 23, 2019, 1:44 p.m.

Outside Firehouse Productions, a cannabis producer in Hillyard, transport driver Jon Sahlberg secures a locked plastic tote filled with marijuana products in the back of his van, part of a regular delivery made by his business, Cannavan, in this photo from 2017. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Outside Firehouse Productions, a cannabis producer in Hillyard, transport driver Jon Sahlberg secures a locked plastic tote filled with marijuana products in the back of his van, part of a regular delivery made by his business, Cannavan, in this photo from 2017. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane Valley leaders likely will vote on whether to allow marijuana transporters to move their headquarters inside city limits, a move two companies already plan to make.

Companies that transport marijuana between farms and retailers currently aren’t allowed to have their own offices in Spokane Valley, but are allowed to drive through the city to deliver to cannabis-based businesses. Under a proposal the Spokane Valley City Council will consider Tuesday night, marijuana transporters would be allowed to move their headquarters to the city.

The law doesn’t allow transportation companies to store marijuana at their offices. State law requires marijuana to stay in locked and sealed containers and marijuana transporters must make the delivers in less than 48-hours.

Kevin Lynch, owner of marijuana transport company Go Green Enterprises, said he needs to expand his business, but it’s difficult to find someone willing to rent to a cannabis company in an area away from schools, parks and arcades.

“It’s more than a little challenging for us to find a location where everybody is happy and accepting of us,” he said.

Lynch said he needs a safer location than his current headquarters, near the House of Charity, but can’t move to locations that are willing to rent to him in Spokane Valley until officials change the rules.

Jon Sahlberg, owner of marijuana transport company Cannavan, said he has locations lined up if Spokane Valley votes in favor of changing the rules. Sahlberg lives in Spokane Valley and commutes to Hillyard for work. He said he would like to operate out of Spokane Valley because it’s safer, cheaper and closer to home. He said retailers and farms are allowed to transport cannabis between their businesses, and delivery companies should be allowed to do the same.

“There really isn’t a reason why we shouldn’t,” he said. “If a producer, processor and retail store are allowed to operate in one area, and a transport company is not, there’s something wrong right there.”

The rule changes wouldn’t allow home delivery, and pot transportation companies would still be required to be 1,000 feet from parks, libraries and school-owned property.

Earlier this month, two City Council members spoke against the proposal and five voted to move it through the legislative process. Councilwoman Brandi Peetz said she had concerns about the safety of cannabis van drivers, but declined to comment further until she had a chance to tour a cannabis delivery business. She said Lynch had invited her to tour Go Green Enterprises.

Linda Thompson, the other council member to speak against the proposal, said she wouldn’t support any proposal that expanded marijuana businesses until the state paid its fair share of money generated from marijuana taxes to local governments. She said local governments and nonprofits need more funds to address impaired driving from recreational marijuana use, and potential substance abuse issues.

Thompson is the executive director of the Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council, which advocates against drug and alcohol abuse.

She said if the city doesn’t allow marijuana to expand inside its borders, businesses that want to move there could advocate to the state Legislature that local governments get more tax dollars for prevention.

“It’s the only leverage that we have,” Thompson said.

Councilmen Arne Woodard and Ben Wick said they support the proposal. Woodard said as long as there is accountability built into the rules for cannabis companies, he didn’t see any issue with them operating alongside other marijuana-based companies in Spokane Valley.

“I’d rather have none of it be here, but the law is what the law is and we have to be practical,” he said.

Mayor Rod Higgins said marijuana is tightly regulated in Spokane Valley, and he doesn’t see any issues with allowing companies that are delivering to move their office operations closer to their customers.

“It’s not like a pizza delivery, it’s a business to a business,” he said. “It’s pretty cut and dry.”

This story was updated on Tuesday, July 23 to include that marijuana transporters are required to keep products they are delivering locked and sealed and the deliveries must be made in under 48 hours.

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