Establishing county zoning for pot growers makes sense


It’s hard to believe Washington state voters legalized marijuana in 2012. It’s 2014 and very little progress has been made in making the voters’ wishes come to fruition.

It’s no longer a crime to smoke illegally purchased marijuana (under some circumstances), but determining how pot can be legally grown and sold — and who will sell and grow it — is a work in progress.

As a result, the goal of putting some distance (literally and figuratively) between occasional recreational pot smokers and criminal drug dealers is fading. The more people fight against allowing marijuana to be grown and sold in their communities, the greater opportunity there will be for black market drug dealers to cash in.

But Walla Walla County took a step in the right direction last week when commissioners adopted and sent draft of principles for regulating marijuana growing operations to the county Planning Commission. Hearings will be held on the county legislation in the coming months.

A lot of people are not pleased that pot is legal. Some would like their local governments to simply ban growing and selling.

If Walla Walla County, like the city of Walla Walla, adopts regulations it can establish buffer zones that could reduce potential locations and problems. No, it’s not going to solve all the problems associated with marijuana, but it will at least give government some control.

The state of Washington is also making some progress, albeit slow. Officials decided to dramatically reduce the number of licenses available to grow weed legally because the Liquor Control Board has been overwhelmed by those who hope to become marijuana farmers.

The state Liquor Control Board apparently did not anticipate the, um, high demand for growing licenses. Really? How could they not? There’s money to be made.

By the end of last year, the Liquor Control Board already had 2,858 growing applications. Originally, the state was going to allow growers to have up to three licenses and the largest farms up to 30,000 square feet.

The new plan aims to give more people an opportunity to get into the pot business by limiting the license to one per grower. In addition, the size of the largest farms will be reduced by 30 percent to 21,000 square feet.

Establishing tight control from the start seems prudent.

We took a stand against the initiative to legalize pot, but since it is the law is should be done right.

The legalization push was not to make growers happy or rich, it was aimed at reducing the black market and getting criminals out of the business. The Liquor Control Board must remain flexible if that has any chance of actually happening.

Meanwhile, local governments must also remain nimble.

State and local officials, to this point, are trying to do what’s necessary to make the legalization of marijuana work as intended.


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