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Commissioners vote for emergency marijuana ban in Benton County

Commissioners vote for emergency marijuana ban in Benton County

BENTON COUNTY, Wash. – Benton County Commissioners enacted an immediate interim moratorium on the production and processing of cannabis in Benton County on Tuesday.

The moratorium prohibits new production and processing of cannabis in four zoning districts, including:

  1. GMA Agricultural District
  2. Rural Lands 20 District
  3. Light Industrial District
  4. Heavy Industrial District

"So, anything that has been permitted to be grown or processed in those four zones would become legal non-conforming activities, so essentially they could be grandfathered in," said Jerrod MacPherson, planning manager for Benton County.

Under the moratorium starting Nov. 14, current cannabis operations are still legal, but they cannot expand or relocate.

The owner of a dispensary in Prosser said the moratorium won't be big hit to business or felt by customers.

"Most of the producer processors that have been around are already reaching their capacity levels and are already established,” said Pablo Gonzalez, owner of The Bake Shop. “I think that it's not going to be too much of a change, but going forward it might make their life a little more difficult if they want to advance any business plans."

Jerrod MacPherson said the moratorium comes after numerous complaints from several residents.

RELATED STORY: Benton County residents raise concerns about marijuana grows and dispensaries in town

"The people who testified felt that their lives are being impacted from aroma to increased traffic, various activities related to the production and processing of Marijuana that affect their day-to-day lives," MacPherson said.

The expressed frustration led the board to take this six-month pause to review the existing regulations to see if there' s a way to accommodate those concerns

"The board probably intends to take action within that six-month period to either to establish new regulations or continue forward with the prohibition," MacPherson said.

"We're trying to do everything that we can in regards of actually stop this Pandora box that the state has opened," Benton County Commissioner Shon Small added.

During the next six months, Small hopes they can craft new codes and ordinances to better regulate grows. Plus, they are working to change legislation to give the county and cities more authority over new marijuana businesses.

"So when we say no to a marijuana grow or we say no to a marijuana shop, that the Liquor and Cannabis Board will say ‘You know what, they said no, we're going to go and deny it,’" Small said.

The commissioners will hold a public hearing on Dec. 5 at 9:00 a.m. in the Commissioners Chambers to let folks speak out for or against the matter.

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