About 50 people crowded into the Whitman County Commissioners' chambers on Monday at the Whitman County Courthouse in Colfax and listened to County Prosecutor Denis Tracy explain how a moratorium on future marijuana facilities could be enacted.
Whitman County Sheriff Brett Myers, a Washington State University representative, several medical professionals and others expressed concerns during a County Commissioners' meeting last week about health and safety risks a marijuana facility on Country Club Road could pose.
A public hearing for the zone change application that would allow Selway Holdings to operate the marijuana processing facility is set for Monday.
While the commissioners allowed public comment on the issue last week, Commissioner Art Swannack told the packed room of people Monday morning's meeting was simply a workshop between Tracy and the commissioners.
Tracy said the commissioners could place a moratorium, or temporary prohibition, on future marijuana production, processing and retail facilities.
A moratorium could apply to land associated with growing, processing and/or selling of marijuana in unincorporated areas of the county, Tracy said, but the county cannot enact zoning laws that apply to incorporated areas of the county.
The moratorium could last up to six months but can be renewed for a longer period if more time is needed to investigate, Tracy said. He said a moratorium can be enacted by ordinance and "can be done very quickly."
A public hearing is not required to institute a moratorium, but one must be held within 60 days of enacting the restrictions, Tracy said.
The moratorium would not apply to marijuana facilities already lawfully established. Instead, they would be "grandfathered in," Tracy said.
Swannack asked Tracy if existing marijuana businesses could relocate during a moratorium.
"They would be stuck where they are at," Tracy said.
Last year, Washington courts upheld the ability of counties to enact codes that would restrict marijuana growing, processing and selling.
"Whitman County hasn't taken that approach so far," Tracy said.
Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.