"A Rolling Moratorium"

A day before Operation Gang Green was executed in Clark County, the subject of marijuana was brought up to the county commissioners.

The discussion took place during board time, a weekly meeting with Administrator Bill Barron and other senior staff members who need to keep the commissioners, as they are the elected policymakers, up to date.

Axel Swanson, senior policy advisor, distributed a staff report to commissioners. Swanson was asking the commissioners to approve the recommended work plan for developing regulations for collective gardens for medical marijuana so he could set it on this week’s consent agenda.

Commissioners, who in August extended an emergency moratorium to a one-year moratorium, have made it clear that they will not follow a state mandate to regulate collective gardens so long as possessing, growing or distributing marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Swanson said under the state law that allows a grower to have a total of 45 plants for medicinal purposes, local governments are supposed to set health and safety guidelines. Because the county adopted a one-year moratorium, the law requires that commissioners adopt a work plan for how they will develop regulations.

Swanson didn’t get far.

“Identify stakeholders?” Commissioner Tom Mielke asked, laughing as he read from the proposed work plan. “To do what? Use marijuana?”

Commissioner Steve Stuart said the county’s not going to do anything unless they get the A-OK from the feds. Then he joked about getting dragged off by federal marshals if the commissioners did approve collective gardens.

He didn’t share Swanson’s concern about the need to follow the state law.

Who is going to enforce it? Stuart asked.

“Our A.G. (Attorney General Rob McKenna) is too busy running for governor,” he said.

In a reference to the U.S. Congresswoman who represents Southwest Washington, Commissioner Marc Boldt quipped that he will add “read Jaime’s emails” to the work plan, so he’ll know when the feds give the greenlight to medical marijuana.

“Can’t we just have a rolling moratorium?” asked Mielke. He seemed to mean rolling as “ongoing,” but Stuart heard the word “rolling” as in, rolling up a big fat spli … moratorium.

And then all hope was lost.

Marty Snell, director of community development, offered a suggestion to Swanson as to how to get commissioners back to business, but Barron looked over at Snell and gave a small shake of his head.

“They aren’t taking this seriously,” Barron said.

Later, Swanson did revise the work plan. Instead of nine tasks, he listed only three:

Task 1. Clarify legal issues. Request legal advice from the Washington State Attorney General’s Office regarding internal inconsistencies found in SB5073. Request an opinion from the U.S. Department of Justice regarding SB5073’s conflict with Federal law and the County’s potential liability in implementing it.

Task 2. Study options for code amendments. Subsequent to legal research, if necessary, begin the process of drafting code amendments for presentation to the Planning Commission and Board of County Commissioners.

Task 3. Monitor legislative activity. Monitor marijuana initiatives and track any bills during the legislative session which could lead to further changes in the law.

Commissioners approved the work plan Tuesday, without comment, as part of the consent agenda.

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