The Columbian / Associated Press

Woodland hits pause on medical marijuana co-ops

Anne Wolff has lived in her home in Woodland for about nine years, and starting in February, she noticed some unusual activity by her new neighbors.

She saw equipment, such as wire, irrigation and lights, being unloaded into the house. Soon after, she started hearing a loud fan going all day.

“I could hear it while I was in my work room,” Wolff said. “I could hear it while doing laundry. I could hear it at 4 a.m.”

She called the police, who let her know it was a legally permitted medical marijuana growing operation. The renters of the home had obtained all of the necessary permits.

“I just wanted to know who would let this happen,” she said. “Who thought this was a good idea?”

A neighbor told her the city council had voted previously to allow medical marijuana growing in residential zones, even though marijuana retail stores were prohibited. She reached out to councilors and other city officials to see what she could do.

At Monday’s city council meeting, the council voted 5-1 in favor of placing a six-month moratorium on establishing, siting, locating, permitting, licensing or operating medical marijuana cooperatives.

A cooperative allows “up to four medical marijuana patients or the designated provider to join together to grow marijuana for their patients’ personal use,” according to the Washington State Department of Health. The marijuana and its derivatives can’t be sold or given away to anyone not in the cooperative, and all cooperative members must be entered into the medical marijuana authorization database and have a recognition card, according to the rules.

City Administrator Pete Boyce said Woodland has discussed the legalization of marijuana for years now. The board previously considered a six-month moratorium on medical marijuana growing cooperatives in June 2016, but it was voted down 4-3.

At Monday’s meeting, the only councilor to vote against the moratorium was Jennifer Heffernan, who voted against it more for timing reasons than anything. During the meeting, she tried to amend the ordinance to a 120-day moratorium instead of six months, but nobody seconded her motion.

Heffernan said that the moratorium will end in mid-January. Between now and then, the council will go through election season, budget season and the holidays, so Heffernan is worried the marijuana discussion will fall to the side while the council focuses on other things. It’s already happened in recent years with similar marijuana moratoriums, she said.

“I think we should hold our feet to the fire,” she said after the meeting. “We should address these issues now. I’d like to do something sooner than later. We have people come to us to speak about these issues. We should show them we’re serious about doing something.”

Wolff came to Monday’s meeting with her friend and neighbor, Monica Rehm. They said they could hear the fan going at that neighbor’s house, and when the fan wasn’t on, they could smell the marijuana. Rehm said the house would get visitors all through the day who would stop by for 10 minutes or so and leave.

The marijuana cooperative has since closed down its grow operation and moved out, Wolff said. She added that she wouldn’t be opposed to a retail marijuana store opening in the city, just as long as it was in an industrial zone.

Woodland Mayor Will Finn said he’s unaware of other medical grow operations in the city that might be affected by the moratorium.

“We’re going to get some rules and parameters in place,” he said. “Then we’ll bring it back forward again to discuss.”