Tuesday, Benton County Commissioners took bold steps, some say harsh, and dramatically changed the landscape for legal pot.

The Commissioners voted to ban all future pot related business (growth, processing, sales) and did away with medical marijuana communal gardens. They also will require medical pot grows to be moved indoors.

According to sources, the county also gave more leeway and freedom for Sheriff Jerry Hatcher and officials to deal with pot related issues, such as odor and nuisance complaints. Residents near Finley have complained to the county about the pot smell from nearby growing operations and processing. Already existing pot business such as Green 2 Go in Finley and Altitude in Prosser can remain open, as can growers and processors in place before this vote.

Critics say the banning of communal gardens and forcing medical grows indoors will create financial hardship for many medicinal users, especially those suffering from physical disabilities who are often on limited incomes.

The two votes sharply change the landscape of the pot industry in Benton County. Opponents of the measures are trying to use referendums to overturn Richland's pot ban which went into effect shortly after I-502 passed. However Benton County does not have a referendum type of government structure, so that cannot be used to change the laws.

The Libertarian Party of Benton County is trying to use the referendum to go to voters and overturn that city's (Richland) ban on pot business. After I-502 was passed, Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued a legal opinion that the measure did not prevent cities or counties from enacting their own jurisdictional bans.  It has stood up in court numerous times.


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