Many Kennewick medical marijuana growers will have to take it inside.
The city council voted 4-1 on Tuesday evening to restrict “nuisance” outdoor marijuana grows that can be seen or smelled from adjacent public or private property.
Several people spoke to the council before the vote, mostly telling stories about problems they face with out-of-control marijuana operations. They talked of neighbors with 45 plants towering 10 feet high, people carrying backpacks of pot out of grow houses, likely with the intent to sell it, nauseous smells and rising crime.
“I have never heard gun shots like I have the last three years,” said Retha Sanders, who has lived in her home on Sixth Avenue for 64 years. “I cannot have my windows down because of the smell.”
Diane Crawford, a candidate against Councilman Paul Parish in the general election, was the only member of the public to speak against the change. She said medical marijuana patients would have to spend at least $2,000 to move their operations inside. She said indoor grows give off exhaust smells and have two growing seasons, compared to one for outdoor marijuana.
“Some of the patients are United States veterans, who are not being taken care of at the federal level or the state level,” she said. “So why disappoint them on the local level?”
Councilman John Trumbo, the only member to vote against changing the ordinance, said he saw the value of getting rid of the problems caused by outdoor marijuana operations, but worried that forcing them indoors would make it more difficult for police to monitor illegal growing.
Councilman Greg Jones voted for the ordinance, but asked that police accompany code enforcement officers when the civil penalties are enforced, fearing code enforcement might not be equipped to deal with some of the problems.
The penalties for maintaining a public nuisance now call for fines between $50 and $500.
Cases will be heard by the Kennewick Improvement Board, which now rules on matters related to unfit dwellings, structures and other premises.
Earlier Tuesday, Benton County commissioners discussed the possibility of an emergency moratorium on all recreational pot businesses in the county, though no official action was taken.
Commissioners say the moratorium could be voted on within the next two weeks. It is expected to pass, with at least two commissioners, Shon Small and Jim Beaver, indicating their support of a ban.
Staff writer Tyler Richardson contributed to this report.