The Whitman County Commissioners approved an ordinance Monday enacting a six-month moratorium on businesses that produce, process or sell marijuana in the unincorporated areas of Whitman County.
The moratorium will begin Monday. Cannabis-related businesses that already exist will still be allowed to operate, but they will not be permitted to expand during the moratorium.
Whitman County Prosecutor Denis Tracy said the county will use this time to research what, if any, zoning regulations should be enacted that would specifically apply to marijuana.
“No building permit, occupancy permit or other development permit, and no business application shall be accepted, and no business license shall be issued for any of the purposes or activities listed herein,” the ordinance says.
Selway Holdings LLC last week withdrew its rezone application to operate a marijuana processing facility on Country Club Road near Pullman after backlash from Country Club Road residents and other members of the community who say they are concerned about cannabis’ effects on the health, safety and reputation of Pullman. That same backlash is also what prompted the commissioners to meet with Tracy about the possibility of imposing a moratorium.
The commissioners approved the moratorium ordinance in front of a crowded room of people Monday. The commissioners allowed public comment, and supporters and opponents of the moratorium spoke.
Several members of the audience said they came to Whitman County for a career in the cannabis industry and were concerned the moratorium would prohibit people from getting jobs and cause the county to lose out on revenue from the industry.
Jordan Zager, the co-owner of Selway Holdings, said it is the fastest-growing industry in the country and more than 100 people are employed in the cannabis industry in Whitman County. He said he was “very confused as to why Whitman County would not want to be part of that.” He also pointed out Chelan County is facing lawsuits from its marijuana growers and processors after it enacted a ban in February 2016.
Opposing views of the health effects of cannabis were given, with some claiming cannabis has benefited their health, while others feared its long-term effects and said they did not want their families exposed to it.
During a Feb. 19 commissioner’s meeting, David Gang, a WSU professor and director of the Tissue Imaging and Proteomics Laboratory, said compounds from plants typically make their way into cow feed, thus making their way into the cow’s milk. He said that is why WSU is concerned emissions from the marijuana farm will lead to a significant negative impact on Ferdinand’s Ice Cream Shoppe and Cougar Gold cheese.
Mike Mortimer, who said he used to study the safety of cannabis products for CannaSafe Analytics, said based on research he’s read, it is “frankly absurd” to think these terpenes – the compounds that give cannabis its odor – in the air will contaminate cows.
Residents on Country Club Road reiterated their worries about their families being exposed to the smell that often accompanies marijuana farms, and brought up complaints residents have about the smell from a marijuana operation on Airport Road.