County council reviews its ban on marijuana shops

With close by jurisdictions legalizing leisure hashish and receiving tax cash, Clark County has begun re-examining its coverage banning marijuana companies in unincorporated locations akin to Hazel Dell and Salmon Creek.

Clark County has prohibited leisure marijuana shops in unincorporated areas since gross sales have been legalized. Meanwhile, leisure pot shops have sprung up in Vancouver and Battle Ground, which don’t have comparable restrictions, and Oregon voters legalized the drug in 2014.

Council Chair Marc Boldt stated that the county is now contemplating if it’s value dropping out on hashish tax income and if the county may have the ability to present simpler laws by lifting the ban.

On Wednesday, Clark County took a step towards probably re-evaluating its insurance policies throughout a piece session the place councilors heard from regulation enforcement and county employees, who described the present regulatory framework in addition to the consequences of Washington voters legalizing hashish in 2012.

During the session, members of the council expressed various levels of reservation concerning the proposed change.

“My wish is I wouldn’t be in this spot,” stated Boldt, talking after the assembly.

Sticky’s state of affairs

Although the county council is contemplating a change to its hashish coverage, the choice is perhaps made for it by the courts. The case includes Sticky’s Pot Shop, a retailer that operates in Hazel Dell in defiance of the ban.

John Larson, the proprietor of the store, opened the shop and challenged the county’s ban in Cowlitz County Superior Court in 2014. Last yr, the Hazel Dell retailer was closed for defying the ban. But in June, a Superior Court decide dominated that the store might reopen whereas it appealed its case. In October, an appellate courtroom heard oral arguments on the legality of the ban and the county is presently awaiting a choice.

“We are very pleased that the county has chosen to reconsider its current position on the bans,” stated Larson. “All we have ever wanted is to exercise our license right and go about our business.”

Community Development Director Marty Snell stated the county has spent tens of hundreds of dollars litigating the Sticky’s case.

Cities get cash

Because Battle Ground and Vancouver permit hashish retailers, they obtain distributions of excise tax income from gross sales. According to numbers included in a county white paper, Battle Ground, which has two lively retailers, acquired $62,083 in distributions for the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years. Vancouver, which has 14 lively retailers, acquired $1.three million.

During the session, the county was introduced with estimates displaying that Clark County would have acquired $468,538 for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 had it allowed hashish gross sales.

“It doesn’t seem to produce very much in the scheme of things,” stated Councilor Eileen Quiring in the course of the assembly.

Councilor Jeanne Stewart additionally expressed unease about shifting towards lifting restrictions on hashish to generate income.

Enforcement

The council additionally heard differing views from regulation enforcement and public well being on hashish legalization.

Dr. Alan Melnick, county director of Public Health and Clark County well being officer, introduced knowledge from the Healthy Youth Survey, a survey administered by the state businesses to Washington adolescents.

“Since before and after retail (cannabis) became available in Clark County youth risk has not increased,” stated Melnick. For instance, the share of Clark County 10th-graders reporting any marijuana use up to now 30 days decreased from 19.5 % in 2012 to 15.6 % in 2016.

Melnick additionally stated the survey’s outcomes confirmed that adolescents reported that it turned harder to get marijuana after it turned authorized. (As with liquor gross sales, you have to be 21 or older to purchase marijuana merchandise.)

While Melnick stated that adolescents are viewing the drug as much less dangerous, in response to the survey, he famous that this development had been underway earlier than legalization.

He stated that there’s average proof that hashish use is related to substance abuse dysfunction, however he added that “there are no data that address whether cannabis” causes individuals to make use of different substances. He additionally cited survey knowledge for adults and adolescents displaying that driving beneath the affect of marijuana has not risen since legalization.

“According to the surveys, driving under the influence (of cannabis) has not increased,” he stated.

John Horch, a commander within the Clark-Vancouver Regional Drug Task Force, provided a unique perspective. He stated that since legalization, regulation enforcement has acquired extra marijuana-related complaints, together with yard grows that produce odors, threats to neighbors who complain, in addition to gross sales to youth. He stated the duty pressure has even gotten complaints from hashish retailers in Vancouver about illicit drug dealing outdoors their shops.

According to numbers introduced in a white paper, the duty pressure acquired 33 marijuana-related complaints between August 2015 and February 2016. Since then, there was a 49 % improve within the final seven months for a complete of 112 complaints since February 2016.

Horch stated that unlawful butane hash oil labs, which extract a extremely potent type of the drug utilizing a probably risky course of, are an growing concern. Although he stated regulation enforcement hasn’t seen one regionally, labs elsewhere have brought on harmful explosions.

He stated that regulation enforcement has discovered youngsters at marijuana grows and that he’s heard from state compliance officers that it’s widespread for different criminality to happen at these places.

Horch stated that it has been “difficult sometimes” for native police to cope with liquor and hashish board officers on the state degree. He famous that the duty drive has complained about unregulated and unlawful grows with out a lot response. He stated a big operation in Woodland took years to close down.

In response, Brian Smith, LCB spokesman, stated in an e-mail that there’s been some turnover with officers in Clark County. He stated that it’s arduous to remark on the LCB’s cooperation with out particulars however famous that the group is “proactive and cooperative as we can be within our scope of authority” and repeatedly works with native authorities businesses.

Horch stated that analysis exhibits that visitors incidents involving marijuana, together with DUI arrests and visitors fatalities, have been on the rise.

While discussing prevention, Councilor Julie Olson cited numbers from an LCB report displaying that hashish retailers have a 91 % compliance price in catching underage gross sales, whereas alcohol retailers have solely an 83 % price.

“The bottom line, I just want to tell you, is we need to do a lot more research on marijuana,” stated Melnick. But he stated that it’s at present troublesome to conduct analysis as a result of the federal authorities doesn’t acknowledge any authentic use for hashish. Consequently, it has not sponsored any analysis.

Next steps

At one level through the work session, Quiring stated that members of the general public within the viewers appeared to know extra about hashish regulation than county employees.

Boldt stated the council will maintain a public listening to in January or February to get suggestions from the general public.

Speaking earlier than the assembly, Olson stated that “having the black market is not beneficial to anyone.”

“I don’t think in legalizing marijuana we have all these brand new marijuana users,” she stated. She stated the query now’s what surroundings does the county need to have round marijuana.

Previously, Quiring had expressed concern about hashish legalization, and in the course of the session spoke of its potential for hurt.

“I’m really concerned about making it more convenient and acceptable to have one more substance that is mind-altering,” stated Stewart after the assembly.

Councilor John Blom stated in a textual content that there’s “no question that marijuana can be abused and does have negative health impacts.”

“The reality, whether we like it or not, is that it’s here in our community and we need to set policy based on the facts, not on our personal opinions,” he stated.



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