Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Garth Meyer
Gazette Reporter 

Marijuana zone change meeting Monday: Tracy advises board; crowd listens

 

February 28, 2019

Whitman County Prosecutor Denis Tracy

Whitman County Prosecutor Denis Tracy, seated at right, briefs county commissioners Monday on options for placing a moratorium on allowing more marijuana production and processing sites in Whitman County. The session brought another standing-room-only crowd to the commissioner's room in the courthouse. Chairman Art Swannack at the start of the session pointed out it was called as a working session for the commissioners to get the report from Tracy, and public comment would not be allowed. The session lasted approximately seven minutes.

Whitman County Commissioners will schedule a session for Monday afternoon to consider a moratorium on new marijuana-related businesses after being briefed by County Prosecutor Denis Tracy Monday in front of another packed crowd.

No time has been set for next Monday’s afternoon session, which will include an opportunity for public comment.

Also March 4, commissioners will conduct a public meeting in the morning on a related zone change request at 11:30 a.m.

This will also include public comment.

“We’ll let everybody talk who wants to talk,” said Commissioner Art Swannack, noting time taken for comment on the morning zone change issue could extend to the commissioners’ next regular meeting March 18.

Up to now

The process began with a request by Selway Holdings, LLC, to change an agricultural zone on property located southwest of Pullman to a light industrial zone. Selway seeks to lease the land to a marijuana growing, processing and research facility which is to be run by Dewey Scientific, a company founded Jan. 1 by two WSU graduates from the molecular plant sciences department.

The zone change request was first heard by the county planning commission, which then sent the matter to the county commissioners with a recommendation that they allow it.

Opposition has since risen, leading to a packed commissioner’s chamber Feb. 19 at the board’s regular meeting, which included an agenda item to set a public meeting date and time on the Selway zone request.

Public comment was allowed by Swannack, commissioners’ chairman.

On Monday, another standing-room only crowd filled the chambers to listen to Prosecutor Denis Tracy advise commissioners Swannack, Dean Kinzer and Michael Largent that they could place a moratorium on cannabis licensing and outlined the procedure.

The commissioners asked for his advice after hearing the public feedback the week before.

Moratorium particulars

“I have a short answer and a long answer,” Tracy told commissioners.

He said that a “moratorium can apply with growing, selling and processing of marijuana in unincorporated areas of the county.”

He defined a moratorium as “a temporary protective measure to protect the status quo, pending further investigation.”

A moratorium can be set for up to six months and can be renewed. Commissioners may set one by passing an ordinance. No public hearing is needed.

Previously licensed operations would not be impacted.

“Anything existing would not come to screeching halt,” Tracy said.

The moratorium would require a hearing within 60 days to take public testimony.

After Tracy spoke, Swannack asked a few clarifying questions, Largent and Kinzer thanked Tracy and the meeting concluded.

No public comment was allowed .

Why does the moratorium process allow for a public hearing after it goes into effect?

“It sounds after-the-fact, but sometimes the commissioners need to act quicker than the process allows,” Tracy explained to the Gazette later Monday.

Extension of a moratorium would require a regular public hearing.

Intentions

With Dewey Scientific, Paul Mihalyov and co-founder Jordan Zager, PhD, are looking to make marijuana plants more disease-resistant.

“Our main clients would be farmers,” said Mihalyov. “Some (of what Dewey grows) will sell to retailers... The goal over the long-run is to do some plant breeding.”

If the zone change is granted from agricultural to light industrial, Dewey Scientific would next need a conditional use permit for its planned operation to grow, process and research marijuana on the Country Club Road site.

A moratorium would pause the request for the conditional use permit. A zone change request would not be stalled by moratorium.

Conditional use permits have previously been granted to two operations that grow marijuana on Airport Road east of Pullman. Both were in areas already zoned as light industrial.

The license

If the Selway Holdings/Dewey Scientific zone change goes through with the conditional use permit approved, a licensed operation could begin.

“You couldn’t say that Dewey Scientific has an active license, at this time,” said Paul Mihalyov, a co-founder of Dewey, explaining that they are in the process to “buy” a license off another company.

Is this permitted?

“You can’t buy a license. You can sell a business,” said Brian Smith, communications director for Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. “The new business can apply for that license.”

“We’re transferring the license. The whole business, not just the license,” said Mihalyov.

Is Dewey Scientific sure this will all come together?

“We’ve gotten approvals at every step along the way so far,” said Mihalyov. “And we’ll continue to operate until someone tells us to stop.”

Explaining later, Mihalyov said that Dewey is working with Alto Buddha, a licensed marijuana producer in Chelan County, to utilize their license.

So the two companies are merging? Or is Dewey buying Alto Buddha?

“We won’t really know until we hear more from the LCB,” said Mihalyov, referring to an application filed with the Liquor and Cannabis Board to transfer Alto Buddha’s license from one county to another.

The phone number listed for Alto Buddha’s marijuana-tier 3 license is not a working number.

 
 

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