Local News

Commissioners Pass Moratorium on Marijuana Businesses in Okanogan County

Mar 08, 2016

On Tuesday, the Okanogan County Board of Commissioners passes a six-month moratorium on new all marijuana businesses in the unincorporated areas of the county.

Citing a proliferation of marijuana operations in the county since legalization through the adoption of I-502, and the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Boards lack of response to local issues the Commissioners found it necessary to take steps to get a handle on the issue. 

Currently Okanogan County is revising the zoning codes which govern how property may be used within the county.  Under the proposal, Marijuana operations, including growing, processing, and retail would require a conditional use permit.  Currently no such permit requirement exists in the county.

Andi Ervin, Executive Director of the Okanogan County Community Coalition said she was very pleased the commissioners passed the resolution.  Ervin said, “Unfortunately Okanogan County has become the wild west for growing pot.” She said, “Liquor Cannabis Board has already licensed over 60 of these businesses in our county, and is making no attempt to limit the density of these businesses.”

Ervin said, “Liquor Cannabis Board allows for no public comment on the placement of these businesses, and appears to have absolutely no concern for the impact of these businesses on local neighborhoods or community.”

That concern was echoed in the Moratorium resolution, which reads the BOCC “has been informed by members of the marijuana industry that WSLCB is encouraging potential licensee’s to ‘get their applications in as soon as possible.’”

Under Washington law, if a completed application were submitted prior to the adoption of the new zone codes, they would be exempt from the new requirements.  The Commissioners cited the concern that WSLCB would be siting new marijuana operations that were incompatible with neighboring properties prior to the adoption of new stricter local controls.

Ervin went on to say, “the Liquor Cannabis Board’s utter failure to adequately regulate this business puts the responsibility squarely in the hands of our local governments.” She said, “We have watched for two years many of these growers operate in ways that are completely out of compliance with state law including inadequate security, non-compliant fencing, lack of use of the traceability system.” She said, “It is past time that we begin some level local over oversight on these businesses. Voters were promised a well-regulated industry and Liquor Cannabis Board has failed. Good for the Commissioners for stepping up to respond to this mess.”

The moratorium is effective beginning today (March 8) and runs for six months, or until the resolution is repealed by the Commissioners.  A public hearing on the moratorium has been scheduled for May 3.  

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