UNION GAP — Count Union Gap in with Yakima: No marijuana businesses, for now.
The possibility of allowing marijuana businesses had enjoyed early momentum when the idea was floated in February, but it fell to a sound defeat Monday night by a 5-2 vote of the City Council.
The debate boiled down to opponents citing voter opposition to the 2012 state measure legalizing marijuana and supporters arguing against a status quo that hasn’t kept black market marijuana out of the community.
“Shall we say no and keep the cartels in business, growing anywhere they want to grow in our hop fields and our forests?” Councilman Dave Matson said prior to the vote. “Or do we want to take control of this substance and sell it responsibly?”
The ordinance also had the recommendation of the Union Gap Planning Commission.
Councilman Chad Lenz said he owed it to Union Gap voters to oppose marijuana businesses. Fifty-two percent of the city’s voters cast ballots against Initiative 502 in 2012, one of the slimmest margins in the county.
“I’m not naive enough to think if I vote against businesses it’s going to go away,” Lenz said. “But it showed voters we listened to them.”
Council members Dan Olson, Mark Carney, David Butler, James Murr and Lenz voted against allowing marijuana businesses; council members Roger Wentz and Matson voted in favor.
The council voted to ban marijuana businesses without having such an ordinance in front of it. City Attorney Bob Noe stepped in after the vote and said the council would need to extend the moratorium while the ban was drafted, which it did on a 5-2 vote.
The city’s moratorium on marijuana businesses expired Monday. The moratorium was extended for two months, but Noe said it would take just a few weeks to draft the ordinance to ban marijuana businesses.
About 40 people attended the meeting, with five speaking in favor of marijuana businesses and four against. Among them were some of the same advocates who spent weeks lobbying the Yakima City Council, which voted in January to ban marijuana businesses.
Colorado, the only other state to legalize recreational marijuana, was a popular topic, with marijuana opponents and supporters each citing different numbers out of that state to back up their arguments. One side said crime was up in Colorado, the other said crime was down.
Paul Weaver said the process is more complex than simply taking it off the street and putting it in the store. He said the state’s traceability system would make it easier than ever to know where marijuana came from if it was sold to a minor.
“It’s a totally above-board process and it’s traced from start to finished,” Weaver said.
More conservative localities around the state have been moving to ban marijuana businesses since an Attorney General’s Office opinion earlier this year said the law left it open to cities and counties whether to allow businesses. But that opinion is nonbinding, and many, including Attorney General Bob Ferguson, say they think the issue will eventually be settled in the state Supreme Court.