Klickitat board lifts pot-growing moratorium

It’s now legal for state-licensed growers and processors to operate in all zoning districts in the unincorporated area of Klickitat County.

The County Board of Commissioners made it so on Dec. 17 when they lifted a 60-day-old moratorium on the growing and processing of marijuana in those areas where the county is the land use authority. The county board continued the interim ban on retail sales of marijuana in unincorporated areas without setting out a plan of action for dealing with retails sales and directed the planning department report back to it within 60 days on the implementation of Initiative 502 in Klickitat County.

The ordinance enacted by the county board last week allows the growing and processing of marijuana in all zoning districts provided state-licensed operators can comply with all applicable state laws and all Washington State Liquor Control Board regulations.

The exceptions to the rule apply to general industrial and industrial park zoning districts, in which marijuana growing and processing must occur within enclosed buildings, and the growing and processing of marijuana as a home occupation, which are not allowed.

Nearly two dozen people attended a public hearing Dec. 10 in Goldendale and 11 offered their opinions to the county board on whether the moratorium on marijuana enterprises should be lifted, partially lifted, or continued. The county board also received more than two dozen written comments from county residents that unanimously expressed support for lifting the moratorium.

“Nearly all written and oral comments supported lifting the moratorium in its entirety, immediately,” Planning Director Curt Dreyer told The Enterprise. “There was a round of applause following each person’s testimony — even the person supporting continuation of the moratorium received subdued applause.

“The typical comments were: The county needs jobs and lifting the moratorium will allow residents to create their own jobs; and the Liquor Control Board regulations address all relevant issues.”

To date, the LCB has received 13 applications for producer licenses from Klickitat County applicants; 11 for processor licenses, and four for retail sales licenses. The LCB stopped accepting license applications on Dec. 20.

A preliminary analysis of land use distribution by the planning department indicated 18 of the applications for production are in extensive agriculture (20-acre minimum), forest resource (20-acre minimum), or general rural (5-acre minimum) zoning districts. Four are within areas zoned rural center.

The planning department had recommended a lifting of the ban to allow for state-licensed marijuana growers and processors to operate in general rural and extensive agriculture zoning districts, or on a minimum of 5 acres, and to direct the planning commission to develop recommendations for the regulation growing and processing in other zones, and of retail sales in unincorporated areas. The county board, however, chose to not act on them.

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