Grant County seeks more limits on legal pot

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EPHRATA — Facing an increasing number of complaints about the smell, Grant County officials hope to have regulations in place by the middle of February that will limit where marijuana can be grown legally in the county.

“We initially looked at this as an agricultural product, and decided it’s allowed where agriculture is allowed,” said Damien Hooper, Grant Count planning director. “But we’re running into odor complaints in residential areas.”

County officials are frustrated that the state’s Liquor and Cannabis Board, which oversees licenses to produce, sell, and transport marijuana in Washington, is approving marijuana production despite concerns about zoning, water, or even the failure of applicants to clear a background check.

“A number were objected to on the basis of zoning,” Hooper told county commissioners on Tuesday. “But the liquor board approved them regardless.”

“This happened so fast,” Commission Chair Cindy Carter said of the legalization process. “It’s really not regulated.”

The county is planning on having a series of public hearing in January to discuss tightening marijuana regulations, with the county’s Planning and Zoning Commission taking the matter up at 7 p.m. tonight at the County Courthouse.

The primary complaint county commissioners have been dealing with involve a small farm on 5 acres at 9326 Neppel Rd., northwest of Moses Lake. According to the state Liquor and Cannabis Board, a license to grow at that address was issued to Covington Meadows LLC, which is registered to Dennis and Kathleen Love, who also own the property.

A second license to grow at that address has been submitted, but not yet approved, by Everbrightgreen LLC, which is registered at a Renton, Wash. address to a Carlos Valaquez.

In addition, a permit to grow marijuana was received from Filucy Bay Farms LLC, a Seattle-based firm registered to a Robert Greenlee, for 8509 Neppel Rd. NE, but that application has since been withdrawn, according to state records.

The Liquor and Cannabis Board has received a total of 69 applications to grow marijuana in Grant County. The board approved 36 permits, 26 are currently pending, five have been withdrawn, and one was discontinued.

According to the website 502data.com, which tracks marijuana production and sales in Washington, the state should collect about $229 million in taxes on total marijuana sales of just under $1 billion in 2016.

Marijuana sales in Grant County during the same period amounted to $9 million, of which about $2 million was paid to the state in excise taxes.

Hooper said the state has approved far more production than the 1 million square foot limit it set when the crop was legalized in 2012.

“It’s uncontrolled,” he said.

Hooper said the county is seeking “a new set of regulations” that will give county officials more authority over where cannabis is grown.

“I’d like to remove cannabis from [areas zoned] rural residential and restricted to the agricultural zone,” he said.

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