Proposed ordinance would ban pot sales in Yakima

Proposed ordinance would ban pot sales in Yakima »Play Video
YAKIMA, Wash. -- Yakima is taking the next step toward opting out of the state's new pot law. City lawyers wrote the ordinance that would ban growing, processing and selling recreational marijuana within Yakima city limits. This could expose Yakima to lawsuits from people trying to do business legally.

When it comes to pot sales, Yakima's leaders want none of it. That's clear in an ordinance drafted by the city's Planning Commission.

It would ban "the production, processing and/or retail outlets and sale of marijuana in all zones of the city." It clearly goes against Initiative 502.

Senior Assistant City Attorney Mark Kunkler says the ability to regulate land use through zoning gives the city the power to ban pot.

"We do feel very confident that under the law, under the initiative, there's sufficient grounds to take the steps that are being proposed."

But, what about would-be sellers who say state law gives them the right to sell pot in Yakima? Yakima's ordinance could lead them to sue and cost Yakima money.

That possibility worries Kennewick's mayor. His city's in a holding pattern. Ellensburg's is unlikely to attempt a ban, instead limiting where stores can operate. Richland's mayor said a ban is unlikely. And, Pasco officials haven't discussed the option.

Tri-Cities leaders are waiting for the state Attorney General to clarify the rules before proceeding.

Betty Dickinson voted for Initiative 502. She says Yakima is being too hasty.

"I think it's too soon and too much. They haven't given it a chance. They don't know what's going to pan out from the vote if they give people a chance. And, they let people buy into their permits already and they're going to stop that now?"

I asked Kunkler, "In your opinion, did the City Council choose the right path in this instance?"

"In my opinion, they certainly are justified in the path they've taken," he said.

A risky path that could lead to local litigation down the road.

A public hearing on the proposed ban is scheduled for January 8th. City Council could vote on it by the end of next month.