Yakima City Council bans marijuana businesses

YAKIMA, Wash. -- The Yakima City Council, once divided on the issue of how to implement the state's recreational marijuana law, was virtually united Tuesday night when deciding to ban all business activity related to the drug.

Council voted 6 to 1 in favor of the ban on the growing, processing and retail sales of pot within city limits. Council member Kathy Coffey cast the lone no vote.

"I cannot support this ban. I do not think this is a responsible move by this council," Coffey said in dissent.

The rest of the council went along with the ban largely citing federal law that classifies marijuana as an illegal drug. They were not swayed by several claims during the public hearing from people about the millions of dollars in revenue the city would lose, the black market that would continue or the medical value from it.

The stage was set for the ban when Council Member Maureen Adkison switched her position from moving forward with developing regulations for complying with I-502. At that time, Mayor Micah Cawley was on board with that as well, but went along Tuesday night with the rest of council to vote for the ban.

A constant theme was among council members was that Yakima voters rejected I-502 while the state overall approved it overwhelmingly.

"I was elected to support what the majority of people elected me to do," said Council Member Rick Ensey.

A legal interpretation from Attorney General Bob Ferguson that cities could opt out of the strengthened the argument for supporters of the ban. However, members of the community pointed to another part of Ferguson's report that recommended state lawmakers close the loopholes that allow these bans under zoning regulations. A move Ferguson says should be done this legislative session.

"I don't think it's over and I think we will be addressing this in some fashion by the end of this year.," Ensey said.

Council Member Bill Lover also indicated it's possible this ban might have to repealed, but he still voted for the ban.

Opponents of the ban in the audience argued that Yakima is letting itself fall behind the rest of the state.

The ban only applies to business activity surrounding marijuana. The portion of the law that allows possession of up to an ounce will still be followed.