The Columbian / Associated Press

Woodland confronts marijuana dilemma

This week, the Woodland City Council hopes to finally ease a monthslong headache over a contradiction in the city’s recreational marijuana laws.

Late last year, the council voted 5-1 to open a portion of the city to commercial marijuana growing and processing. The decision left marijuana stores off-limits in the city, but the other two prongs of the new industry would be just fine in a small industrial area west of the railroad tracks.

This winter, Gregory Bowyer of Ridgefield applied to start his own business in the city as a Tier 1 producer and processer. But soon afterward, Mayor Grover Laseke rejected his application, pointing to a section of the municipal code that bars the city from issuing business licenses to any venture that violates federal law.

Monday night, at their regular biweekly meeting, the councilors will take a stab at modifying the law.

The Liquor Control Board allows cities to partake in the license approval process. Bowyer’s application meets regulations for zoning and location, Laseke said. Nonetheless, Laseke said, he warned the councilors he would have to turn down Bowyer’s bid for a license if they didn’t solve that little conundrum first.

The proposed ordinance doesn’t scrap that portion of the code altogether. Instead, it carves out an exception for businesses authorized under Initiative 502, the 2012 ballot measure that legalized recreational marijuana in Washington.

In a recent interview with The Columbian, Bowyer said he was surprised about Laseke’s decision, but he’s still interested in opening the business soon. Councilor Al Swindell said he understood why Laseke took a stand against the license, but said he found the decision a bit excessive. He hoped to settle the matter quickly.

Also on Monday, the councilors will take their first look at a proposal to permanently ban collective gardens for medical marijuana. The proposed ordinance expresses concerns that the federal government could impose criminal charges on local government officials for permitting collective gardens.

Like many of Southwest Washington’s other small cities, Woodland has had a long-running debate over the ambiguities of the state’s medical marijuana law. Last summer, the city extended its moratorium on collective gardens for another half-year, continuing a long stretch of delays on the issue as legal questions lingered.

At the state level, legislators are working on tightening the regulatory framework on medical marijuana this session. Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, is championing a bill to overhaul marijuana regulations on both the recreational and medical sides.

Source: The Columbian / Associated Press