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Updated Saturday, November 24, 2012 at 09:01 PM

Vancouver, Wash., considers rules for collective pot gardens

By Stephanie Rice
The Columbian

The City Council in Vancouver, Wash., has tentatively agreed to consider restricting collective medical-marijuana gardens to areas zoned for heavy and light industry.

The council will do a first reading of the ordinance Monday and can send it on to a public hearing Dec. 3 .

During a workshop Nov. 19, councilors asked why the proposed ordinance was so restrictive. In addition to being in heavy- or light-industrial areas, gardens would have to be at least 1,000 feet from schools, community centers, public parks, licensed day-care facilities and other collective gardens.

As one councilor asked, "Are there any spaces left?"

Heavy-industrial and light-industrial zones include areas such as the Port of Vancouver, Columbia Business Center and Columbia Tech business park.

Community and Economic Development Director Chad Eiken said he felt the ordinance struck a balance between allowing them everywhere and not allowing them anywhere, approaches taken by other jurisdictions in the state with mixed results.

Councilors asked City Attorney Ted Gathe how the approval of Initiative 502 will affect medical-marijuana use, and he said that remains to be seen.

I-502 addressed recreational use, Gathe said, as it decriminalized the possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and older. The law takes effect Dec. 6.

Medical marijuana was decriminalized in 1998, but it wasn't until 2011 that regulations were established for collective gardens.

Regulations state that no more than 10 card-carrying patients can have a collective garden with no more than 45 plants. A copy of each patient's medical documentation must be kept on the premises, and a patient can belong to only one garden at a time. The state gave local jurisdictions the right to set zoning restrictions.

Both the city of Vancouver and Clark County commissioners have subjected the law to extended moratoria.

County commissioners, who will decide where gardens can be located in unincorporated areas, are expected to discuss the topic at a work session on Wednesday.

Under the city's ordinance, collective gardens would have to be inside buildings secured with deadbolt locks. No signs or symbols advertising the garden would be allowed, and no on-site sales or sales of drug paraphernalia would be allowed. The security and absence of cash may discourage would-be robbers, Eiken said.

While the city would not license the gardens, the operator of the garden must notify the city, according to the proposed ordinance.

Hours would be restricted, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and nobody younger than 18 would be allowed at the gardens.

The city first enacted a six-month moratorium on collective gardens in July 2011. The extended moratorium will expire at the end of this year.


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