The Whitman County Planning Commission released a draft ordinance that includes limits on marijuana businesses in the unincorporated areas of the county.

Those limits include rules about odor and proximity to residences.

The commission has been working on the ordinance with the help of public input for months while a moratorium remains in effect until March 4 on any new marijuana growers, processors and retailers in unincorporated Whitman County.

The moratorium was enacted after members of the public voiced fears about the potential health risks of marijuana, environmental risks, potential crime increases and the odor of marijuana farms.

Whitman County Planner Alan Thomson said before such an ordinance is enforced it must first get approved by the county commissioners. No decision has been made on when it will be presented to them. Hemp is not included in the ordinance.

State licensed marijuana operations already in existence prior to the adoption of this ordinance would be considered legal.

The language tackles issues such as location, odor and environmental issues.

For example, indoor and outdoor facilities must get a conditional use permit to operate and cannot be within 1,000 feet of “sensitive uses” such as schools, playgrounds and public parks. Outdoor facilities must be at least 500 feet from existing residences.

Additionally, no production and or processing facility “may locate within 1,500 feet of municipal boundaries of incorporated towns and unincorporated communities within Whitman County.”

The ordinance states the facility cannot emit odors detectable at or beyond the lot lines of the facility “in such a concentration or of such a duration as to cause a public nuisance, or threaten health or safety, or to unreasonably infringe upon the use or enjoyment of neighboring uses.”

Furthermore, fertilizers, chemicals, gases or hazardous materials cannot enter an onsite septic system, sanitary sewer or stormwater system.

Thomson said public input was given at the commission’s meetings as well as through phone calls and emails.

“The public have been very involved in this process,” he said.

He said the commission also incorporated rules established by other governments in Washington when creating the draft.

The Whitman County Planning Commission will discuss the draft ordinance at tonight’s meeting at 7 p.m. in the Public Service Building in Colfax.

Anthony Kuipers can be reached at (208) 883-4640, or by email to akuipers@dnews.com.

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