The Longview City Council wants to keep collective medical marijuana gardens as far as possible from residential areas, trailer parks, schools, parks and churches — but legally it must allow them somewhere.
City Attorney Jim McNamara on Thursday warned the council it can’t prohibit the gardens by adopting so many zoning restrictions that there’s no place left to put them. Many cities have tried to do this with adult entertainment, resulting in lawsuits, McNamara said.
The state legalized the collective gardens in July 2011, but the city banned them until March 22 to give it time to adopt zoning regulations.
The Longview Planning Commission has recommended allowing the gardens in areas zoned light industrial and mixed use commercial/industrial. The commission proposed siting gardens at least 500 feet from mobile home parks and 300 feet from residential lots. Thursday, Councilman Mike Wallin proposed extending the buffers in both cases to 1,000 feet, the same minimum distance from the gardens the Planning Commission recommended for the property lines of schools, churches and parks.
The council asked city staff to create a map that outlines Wallin’s proposed 1,000-foot buffer zones to see what land would remain available for the gardens. The council already had a city map with the originally proposed buffers.
Looking at the original map, it appears expanding the buffers would rule out at least two industrial areas for garden use, limiting them to the Mint Farm Industrial Park and land along Industrial Way between Oregon Way and California Way.
City Planning Manager Steve Langdon reminded the council the collective gardens would be allowed only indoors inside a solid building with lockable doors. The gardens could contain up to 45 plants and occupy a maximum of 150 square feet, which is 15 by 10 feet.
Initiative 502, which Washington voters approved in November by 10 percentage points, allows people 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of pot for recreational use. However, for now, residents can’t legally grow their own marijuana unless they have a medical marijuana card. The purpose of the collective gardens is to allow medical marijuana patients to join forces on marijuana gardens. All collective members must be either a medical marijuana patient or their caregiver.
Under I-502, the state’s liquor control board has a year to set up the new marijuana market for recreational users, including designating state-approved retailers.
Longview resident Ken Spring urged the council to challenge the medical marijuana garden statute in court, saying he doesn’t want people “driving drunk on marijuana.”
“I think this would be worthwhile to opt out of the marijuana thing altogether,” Spring said. “The people of Longview would be very proud of you if you did that.”
Langdon noted that medical marijuana has been legal in Washington since 1999, and that the legalization of collective growing operations to supply medical marijuana patients is a separate issue from voters legalizing pot in November for recreational use.