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By Madysen McLain
Gazette Reporter 

Cannabis questions remain: Moratorium headed for 6-month extension


Whitman County commissioners met with County Planner Alan Thomson to discuss progress on an ordinance for marijuana operations during a workshop session Monday morning.

Commissioners had previously placed a moratorium on any new or expansion of cannabis-related businesses after Selway Holdings LLC requested zoning for a marijuana processing facility on Country Club Road near Pullman and received backlash from residents.

At Monday’s meeting, commissioners and Thomson, along with County Prosecutor Denis Tracy discussed the possibility of extending the moratorium.

Commissioner Art Swannack first questioned about marijuana odor and how to control the smell to prevent residents from filing complaints.

Tracy said it is legal to put in the new code that a marijuana operation, whether indoor, or outdoor, must contain their borders, and not allow the smell to go past their property.

He said growers could do this by putting the operation on a large parcel of land, like 100 or more acres and growing the crop in the center, so the smell is less likely to travel to other resident’s properties.

“A lot of these operations don’t have that kind of buffer,” Thomson said.

Public Works Director Mark Storey said the problem with containing the marijuana odor is deciding how to determine if the smell is strong or not. He said an objective county staff member could be the one to respond to complaints, then the next question is, what can you do in terms of enforcement?

“The way a lot of rules are written, there’s a certain compliance percentage based on statistics,” Storey said. “You cannot prevent an odor or a gas from going across a property line, what you’re supposed to do is have a compliance of nine out of 10 samples that are tested.”

Swannack also mentioned terpenes, fragrant oils that give cannabis its distinct smell, have not been tested enough to know whether it is toxic to the health of residents.

Commissioner Dean Kinzer commented the current code prohibits grow operations within close proximity to primary and secondary schools, and asked if WSU counts as a secondary school if there are high school students on campus for Running Start?

Tracy said he would have to look into that question.

Thomson said the County Planning Commission has worked to write a new ordinance and has a draft, but the language will need to be worked on.

“I think people are reasonable if you can write the code in a way that protects them,” Swannack said.

The commissioners decided to extend the moratorium to have more time for the planning commission to write the new code.

Tracy said they would need to schedule a hearing and create another six month ordinance to extend the current moratorium.


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