Yakima OKs 6-month moratorium on medical pot gardens

The Yakima City Council passed a six-month moratorium on medical marijuana grow operations Tuesday in anticipation of a new state law to take effect Friday. In doing so, Yakima joins a growing list of cities grappling with the new law that allows up to 10 qualifying patients to grow 45 plants at a collective garden for their own use. The law allows cities to license, zone and impose health and safety requirements on collective gardens within their jurisdictions. Snohomish, Marysville and Lake Stevens have all enacted similar temporary bans. Seattle, however, on Monday passed rules requiring medical-marijuana providers to get city business licenses and comply with zoning, building codes and other city regulations.

The emergency moratorium approved by the Yakima council was not listed on its agenda and required a unanimous vote to pass. The moratorium passed on a 6 to 0 vote — with Councilman Rick Ensey absent — and with little discussion by council members. A public hearing on the measure has been scheduled for Aug. 16. City attorney Jeff Cutter said the moratorium is necessary because grow operations under the new law raise land-use issues for which the city has no established policies. The city also passed an ordinance that would make consuming or displaying medical marijuana in public a civil offense rather than a criminal offense.

The moratorium stems from actions last April when Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed large sections of a bill expanding the state’s medical marijuana law, including a portion legalizing medical marijuana dispensaries. However, the part of the bill allowing collective gardens was left intact. In other business, the council agreed to schedule a public study session on options to pay for road improvements over the next few years, including possible vehicle licensing fees, increases in utility taxes or putting a bond measure of up to $30 million before voters. No date has been set for the study session.

Roughly 28 percent of all city roads are considered to be in disrepair, according to a new report by city officials. Councilman Dave Edler expressed frustration with the council over finding a solution to the lack of maintenance funding, which he said council members agreed to make a priority in January 2010. “We’ve been talking about this for 18 months and still haven’t done anything,” Edler said. There were no updates on the ongoing selection process for the new city manager, Mayor Micah Cawley said.

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