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Marijuana Moratorium Lifted
County Areas Still Require Federal License
By Jake Morgan, staff writer
CHEHALIS — Four years after Washington voters approved Initiative 502 to legalize recreational marijuana, Lewis County lifted its moratorium and approved Ordinance 1271 to allow retail marijuana shops in unincorporated areas of the county and in urban growth areas in 2017. The new ordinance requires these businesses to obtain both a county license and a federal license, which are unavailable.
Eric Eisenberg from the Lewis County prosecutor’s office gave a presentation to the Board of County Commissioners in Jan. 2017 explaining the amendments to the ordinance which reflected years of public input. He said five main areas of concern covered in the new ordinance are odor control methods, limitations to the number of businesses the county would license, issues related to advertising, an increase in proposed fees to cover staff time and businesses located in urban growth areas.
Eisenberg said at this time, a marijuana business wanting to locate in unincorporated Lewis County or in an urban growth area will not be able to get a county license because the ordinance requires federal compliance. Unless or until federal law changes or the county does something different with that requirement, retail marijuana will not be allowed, he said.
“Our business license only reaches those things that are in the unincorporated county, so within their incorporated areas, the cities are free to permit these places,” Eisenberg added.
Commissioners Gary Stamper and Edna Fund voted to approve the ordinance and Commissioner Bobby Jackson voted against it. Jackson said he is against producing marijuana for recreational purposes.
“Lewis County has a growing drug abuse problem, and in my estimation, this will do nothing but contribute to that problem,” Jackson said. “We’ve been told that there is a financial windfall that would occur from the growth and production of the product, but we have yet to see any evidence to fully support that.”
The full text of the amended ordinance can be found at https://lewiscountywa.gov/media/oldSite/default/files/users/commdev/Ordinance%201271%20Regulating%20Marijuana%20Activity.pdf.