The Columbian / Associated Press

Woodland accepts marijuana industry

WOODLAND — After much ado, Woodland will allow businesses that grow recreational marijuana after all, barring any more unforeseen obstacles.

The vote was 5-2 on Monday night to tweak a city ordinance that doesn’t allow businesses “known to violate … federal law.”

Under the Council’s action Monday, licensed recreational marijuana businesses are now exempt from that rule. It cleared the way for growing and processing operations to take root in an area south of Wal-Mart that the city council previously set aside for the businesses.

The ban on retail stores in city limits remains.

Councilors Susan Humbyrd, Jennifer Heffernan, Al Swindell, Scott Perry and Marshall Allen voted for the change.

“It’s something people would drive by and have no idea what’s happening there,” Perry said of proposed marijuana businesses. “I believe that they will generate a fair number of jobs and so forth, and we can’t afford to turn away any jobs in this city.”

Swindell said the issue has been debated long enough.

“This is a legal business. It’s time to move on,” he said. “Our attorney sent us a legal opinion on this, and I see no reason why not to move forward.”

Councilors Marilee McCall and Benjamin Fredericks voted against the change.

“I’ll say one more time that I’m against this. I believe there are too many legal risks associated with the decision,” Fredericks said. “I don’t think this business adds value to our community.”

McCall echoed concerns about potential marijuana tax revenue from the state.

“Not quite a fair slice of the pie considering some of the issues we would need to pay for,” she said.

The ordinance change came up at a March 16 meeting, where a vote resulted in a 3-3 tie, with Humbyrd absent and Heffernan voting against it.

Heffernan said after Monday’s meeting that a memo from the city attorney helped change her mind on the issue.

There are two business licenses pending and a possible third on the way for the Schurman Way area where state-approved marijuana businesses are allowed.

Mayor Grover Laseke denied a business license in February to a marijuana grower who had worked with the city as it crafted the city’s retail ban and production limits.

Laseke was on vacation and absent from Monday’s meeting.

The council also voted to finalize its ban on collective medical marijuana gardens at the meeting.