Benton County Could Be ‘Done’ With Legal Pot, Considers Moratorium
Although officials have not confirmed this, it's likely the firestorm of resistance from West Richland citizens that's prompted Benton County Commissioners to put a plan in play that would eventually prevent any more pot business from opening in the county.
After I-502 passed, largely because of King, Snohomish and Pierce County votes, Benton County didn't pass it's own jurisdictional ban (allowed under the language of the law) because they feared lawsuits. Kennewick, Richland, Pasco and Franklin County did. Although at least four suits have been brought by perspective pot business people, all have been shot down in county Superior Court.
Even liberal leaning State Attorney General Bob Ferguson agreed in a non-legally binding opinion, that the language of I-502 allows cities and counties to pass their own pot bans, and they would (and have) stood up in court.
Now, with three pot operations in the county Benton County Commissioners are changing their tune. The latest flap is over the proposed Nirvana Cannabis Co. shop that would be located in an unincorporated 'donut hole' inside West Richland City limits. A tidal wave of opposition has come from area neighbors, because it's less than 150 feet from a daycare, a church, bus stops and more. They worry about traffic, parking and other effects on their residential area.
If Benton County officials do pass the moratorium, it would cap the number of pot shops at three, pending the outcome of the Nirvana situation, according to the Tri-City Herald.
Despite visions that pot business would be a financial windfall for the state, Benton County officials say the tax revenue has not been overwhelming. County Commissioner Shon Small, according to the Herald, was quoted as saying "I don't want any more marijuana shops in Benton County."
Small went on to say the county has only received about $$60,000 from pot related business over the last two years, a drop in the bucket compared to other forms of tax related revenue.
This week, commissioners voted to have their staff find a way to cap the number of pot shops at three.