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Six-month moratorium on new pot businesses continued

The Klickitat County Board of Commissioners continued a six-month moratorium on all marijuana businesses in the county's unincorporated areas on Dec. 16.

Photo by Amber Marra
The Klickitat County Board of Commissioners continued a six-month moratorium on all marijuana businesses in the county's unincorporated areas on Dec. 16.

No new marijuana businesses will be permitted in Klickitat County’s unincorporated areas until a six-month moratorium lapses or is called off by county commissioners.

The moratorium on all businesses attempting to obtain licenses through Initiative 502, which legalizes the production and sale of recreational marijuana, applies to unincorporated areas and was unanimously passed by the Klic-kitat County Board of Commis-sioners at its regular meeting on Dec. 16.

Klickitat County’s incorporated areas include White Salmon, Bin-gen, and Goldendale.

This is the second time Klickitat County has imposed a moratorium on marijuana businesses, the first of which was lifted on Dec. 17, 2013. After hearing from concerned residents and seeing how I-502 operated for the last year, county commissioners came to the conclusion that another moratorium is needed in order to allow the County Planning Commission to develop ordinances regarding land use concerns that have arisen.

“…The Board of County Com-missioners adopted the moratorium to halt the establishment of new marijuana production, processing, and retail facilities in unincorporated areas of Klickitat County, in order to allow time to determine how to address the local impacts from such facilities,” according to a press release provided by the county when the new moratorium was originally enacted reads.

According to the county’s press release, the policies that could be adopted include requirements that I-502 businesses provide notice to nearby property owners, determination of factors that might decide if a marijuana facility is incompatible with other uses in a certain area, or restrictions to “protect the public’s health and safety.”

During that first moratorium, the County Planning Department had recommended allowing licensed marijuana growers and processors to operate in General Rural and Extensive Agriculture zoning districts, or on a minimum of five acres, and to direct the planning commission to develop recommendations for the regulation of growing and processing in other zones and of retail sales in unincorporated areas, but the board chose not to act on that recommendation at the time, according to the Dec. 26, 2013 edition of The Enterprise.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board (LCB), which governs all applications for I-502 licensing, lists all applicants on the LCB Web site’s “Frequently Requested Lists” page at http:// The lists are updated every Tuesday.

As of Dec. 9, the LCB listed 35 applications for marijuana production licenses in Klickitat County, 24 of which are pending, 11 of which are active. There are also 24 applications in for processor licensing, 15 of which are pending and nine that are active.

The LCB also lists eight applications for marijuana retail licenses, with three active. Of those active licenses, Stonehenge Cannabis in Murdock is the lone recreational marijuana retailer in an unincorporated area of Klickitat County. The LCB has also licensed Margie’s Pot Shop in Bingen and Golden Dis-pensaries in Goldendale.

Despite those eight retailer applications, the LCB capped the number of retailers in Klickitat County at four, with one set for Goldendale and three throughout the rest of the county, but there continues to be no cap on how many growers or processors that can locate here.

That said, the newly instated moratorium does not impact those businesses that have already obtained licenses through the LCB and Klickitat County Building Department.

“Marijuana licensees who have not yet received a license from the LCB or have received LCB licenses but not submitted a complete application to the County Building Department for a building permit are prohibited from operating while the moratorium is in effect,” the press release reads.

The decision to continue the moratorium was made following a public hearing held on Nov. 12 that drew passionate testimony from those who are opposed to marijuana businesses in general, license applicants who are in limbo due to the moratorium, and even those who currently hold a license to grow, process, or sell marijuana.

The decision was also originally slotted for a vote on Dec. 9, but was continued after Commission Chair-man Jim Sizemore said at the time that he wanted a full board present. Commissioner David Sauter was absent that day.

Before the final decision on the moratorium was made on Dec. 16, Sauter said he found that voters were closely divided after researching how the county voted on I-502 in 2012 and therefore a balance must be found between where marijuana businesses can and cannot locate.

“I suggest we keep the moratorium in place and send it to the Planning Commission because I’ve thought all along that there are places here where it is just not appropriate,” Sauter said.

Sizemore said at the beginning of the discussion about the moratorium that he wanted to see if I-502 would be brought up in the upcoming legislative session or if the state Supreme Court would hand down any decisions regarding to what extent county and local governments might have jurisdiction over marijuana businesses.

Sizemore also said that if he had it his way, no new marijuana businesses would ever be permitted in Klickitat County.

“My feelings are that I would like to ban any future marijuana growing, processing, or retail sales in the county, but we can’t do anything about those businesses that are vested,” he said. “I would like to keep the moratorium in place for six months so we can get word from the state Supreme Court on a final decision on this poorly written legislation.”


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