Yakima County commissioners vote to ban pot businesses

Yakima County commissioners vote to ban pot businesses

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. -- It's a "No" to legal pot businesses in unincorporated areas of Yakima County. That was Tuesday's call from Yakima County commissioners. Their unanimous vote comes after a year of weighing the issue in committee and an ongoing moratorium.

Commissioners banned retail sales, processing and growing recreational marijuana on unincorporated land.

"I'm ultimately pleased with the decision that was made," said County Commissioner Kevin Bouchey.

Despite I-502 passing statewide, commissioners point to the 58 percent who voted against it in Yakima County as a reason for their ban, a position they say was supported by an opinion from the state attorney general that local governments could opt out of the law.

Supporters of legal pot dispute that argument.

"If you really look at the voter turnout poll records in Yakima County, it's not necessarily a great reflection of actual demographics that are in Yakima County," Jedidiah Haney said.

Haney and a friend failed to convince commissioners that the inconsistency of where pot businesses will be legal isn't good for Yakima County.

"I would hope that you'd decide to help protect our community, cutting out the black market and providing a consumer-safe product," a man said during the public hearing portion of the meeting.

Others disagree.

"It would give the green light to individuals to create more crime," another man said.

The decision by commissioners went against the recommendation of the Yakima County Planning Commission, which opposed an outright ban. Commissioners weren't swayed by the money legalized marijuana could bring to the area – despite the county's own troubled finances. 

"I don't think decisions should always be based on the possibility of generating tax revenue," said Bouchey. "I think that's shortsighted."

Commissioners maintain the ban is their commitment to public safety.

Commissioners will officially approve the language to ban recreational pot next week.