City of Walla Walla has to establish local pot rules

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This week’s Walla Walla City Council decision establishing temporary rules on where marijuana can be sold, grown and processed in the city was not an endorsement of legalization of pot.

It was simply the City Council doing its duty in following the law established by the approval of Initiative 502, which made recreational marijuana use legal in Washington state.

Other local governments in the area have approved moratoriums on establishing marijuana rules because some of those elected officials don’t want to see pot sold within their jurisdictions.

The delay in approving the pot rules have been allowed because the Washington State Liquor Control Board, which was charged with writing the state regulations, was taking a longer time than originally anticipated. The WSLCB has now made progress on that task, so local governments have no choice but to forge ahead.

The new regulations say Walla Walla can have two retail locations, although the number of growing and processing operations is not limited. But the rules establish buffer zones that greatly reduce potential locations. Marijuana operations must be at least 1,000 feet from elementary or secondary schools, playgrounds, recreation centers, child-care centers, public parks, public transit centers, libraries and game arcades. According to City Attorney Tim Donaldson, this leaves just five locations in the city for pot enterprises.

These locations are not necessarily going to be embraced, particularly by those who live nearby or have businesses in the area. County Commissioner Jim Johnson was understandably concerned about the site near the county Fairgrounds.

The city pot ordinance approved this week is temporary.

“It was adopted to protect the city while permanent regulations are processed,” Donaldson wrote in an email to a U-B reporter. He added that the late adoptions of regulations by the WSLCB resulted in the city needing to “scramble” to meet its obligations.

Moving forward in Walla Walla — and across the state — will likely be escorted by confusion. Initiatives are written by special-interest groups and therefore don’t always consider as many potential problems as do legislative bodies (and their attorneys).

I-502 was approved. It is the law. The City Council members don’t have to like the law, but they have to follow it. And that is what they did in approving the interim ordinance.

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