SUNNYSIDE, Wash. — I found myself with several bits of information left over from Monday night’s Sunnyside City Council meeting dealing with marijuana businesses.
After debating for a good hour or so, the City Council decided to renew a moratorium on all businesses related to the state’s new recreational marijuana industry.
I didn’t have room for all the interesting items in my story for today’s paper and the lengthy discussions took us so deep into the evening I didn’t have time to jockey for more space.
So, I’m going to notebook dump for a moment here.
• Though the city has had a moratorium for a year now, the Council has asked the planning commission to draft changes to the city code that would allow marijuana businesses with regulations a little more strict than those required by the state. The city’s only proposed store, Dave’s Place, would run afoul of those suggested rules because it is located too close to a small church located just outside the city limits, Jamey Ayling, the city’s planning supervisor, told me in the parking lot after the meeting. He is unsure how the commission and the business owner will address that quandary. Store owner David Rand has already started construction.
• Like many elected officials, Sunnyside City Council members are reluctant to make decisions about marijuana because they don’t want to make their city the one to test the churning legal waters. Marijuana is illegal under federal law but legal in the state. Which do they follow? Another six-month moratorium, they reasoned, would allow the state legislature to convene one more time and so-called “test case” lawsuits against cities that have banned marijuana to proceed further, perhaps reach a verdict.
• One of those test cases may not answer any state vs. federal supremacy questions. The most commonly known is in Wenatchee, where city code prohibits businesses that do not comply with federal laws. The ACLU considered helping represent the owner of a proposed pot store who sued the city for the right to open, hoping to prove that state law in this case trumps federal law. Though Wenatchee officials still plan to fight for their ban, their attorneys have backed off a little, now basing their defense on a non-binding opinion from the state attorney general that cities may legally ban the businesses, leaving out the question of supremacy. Thus, ACLU representatives have said publicly they will stay out of the fight for the moment.
• The last time the Sunnyside council discussed marijuana, more than 30 people stepped up to the podium to share their thoughts. Monday night, the council members and the city’s attorney did most of the talking. One speaker, however, was Adam Markus, the owner of Union Gap store Station 420. He opened on July 9 as one of the first 24 retail shops in the state. Interestingly, he told the council about 30 percent of his customers come from outside Yakima County, while the majority of them are 40 and older. He admitted he expected a much younger clientele.
-- Ross Courtney (firstname.lastname@example.org; 509-930-8798)