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home : premium content : news May 28, 2016

4/16/2014 12:56:00 PM
Council poised to impose recreational marijuana ban in the city
Ian Dunn

After months of discussions, the Leavenworth City Council appears ready to impose a ban on the sale, distribution or growing of recreational marijuana in the city. The council was ready to vote on the ban at the April 8 city council meeting, but held off, because one councilman was absent.

Still it appeared the votes were there to ban recreational marijuana sales in the city. Council members Tibor Lak, Michael Molohon, Larry Meyer and John Bangsund spoke in favor on the ban, while Elmer Larsen and Carolyn Wilson did not. Councilman Bob Francis was absent.

The council planned to continue the vote on the ban to the April 22 meeting. At the city council study session the morning of April 8, Mayor Cheri Kelley Farivar pushed for the council to ban recreational marijuana sales in the city.

"All the cities in eastern Washington are either debating it, discussing it. Frankly, what I get, speaking to the mayors, the quagmire of regulation is almost more than they want to deal with. It's not saying this is banned forever," Farivar said. "But they are not going to allow it in the city until the federal government makes themselves known."

Farivar noted there was a bill in the legislature last session that would force cities and counties to allow recreational marijuana sales. And while it died, it is very likely to come up again.

"However, it is getting minimal support from the wider legislature. Because of the uncertainty, no city government likes uncertainty, especially to force somebody to do something at some later date," Farivar said. "The uncertainty seems to be the main reason these communities are outright banning the sale right now."

City Administrator Joel Walinski said the city of Kent banned a medical marijuana distribution center and the ban has held up court.

As he has stated before, Councilman Elmer Larsen said he doesn't like it or use it, but respects the will of the voters. If it prohibited in town, it will likely end up at either end of town, in the county, Larsen said.

"I understand, have heard, that there is a recreational marijuana store in Peshastin. I don't know that for a certainty," Farivar said. "The question is...if the county chooses to license something in Peshastin, is that not close enough for our residents? Do we need provide recreational marijuana access within walking distance? What would be the benefit of us licensing recreational marijuana, if it is available three or four miles way? That's just a question I pose."

From a Google search, Farivar said she found a medical marijuana dispensary in Leavenworth. The instructions were to not to contact the city for directions. Instead, call a number for delivery. Farivar said maybe it is time for the council to take a stand on the kind of activities that are actually going on.

"If you are talking about just are not going to loose this revenue, the marijuana tourism base," Lak said. "If they are going to come here to smoke, we're going to get the revenue, even if they buy it in Peshastin or out Icicle or up the Chumstick. The revenue part shouldn't be the driving force."

If you don't provide it, you drive them to the black market, Larsen said. Molohon told of a person he met who greatly benefitted from marijuana use.

"I had an interesting encounter with an elderly person that was on all kinds of medications for sleep and for this and that. Some kids brought her some marijuana brownies. She is doing fabulous. She is not doing any more of those medications," Molohon said. "Could we have a medical marijuana dispensary but not recreational? We want the medical part because it is helping people."

Farivar said her 29 year old son is very much in favor of the city banning recreational marijuana, mainly because he doesn't want to live in a place where there is marijuana tourism. Farivar said Leavenworth is a place that has with alcohol consumption issues every weekend.

"People are thinking, let's go to Leavenworth and party. Do you want to give them another tool to do that? Can marijuana make that better? No. Will the public intoxication issues get better? I didn't expect him to have that stance and I think he is right," Farivar said of the conversation with her son. "We can't foresee what happens if we make it legal in our city. I think it is inappropriate for the city of Leavenworth to license recreational marijuana sales inside our city limits."

At the council meeting that evening, all the council members were polled as to their opinions on recreational marijuana. The council was given three choices, allow recreational marijuana in the city, ban it in the city, or continue the moratorium.

"The voters voted to allow, but the Fore Fathers voted a long, long time ago that we could say no. I think it something that will crop up in the county and I say, let the county deal with it," Lak said. "I'm not going to say lets break the federal law as a city and allow it to happen until the federal law has changed."

Molohon said he voted for the initiative, but still feels it is a problem for the city.

"We have lots of liquor licenses and lots of places serving alcohol. Not sure we also need to be selling marijuana," Molohon said. "It would be my vote that we forbid it in the city limits and let it be in the county."

Councilman Larry Meyer felt the city could be greatly harmed by allowing recreational marijuana, which he believed could adversely affect the federal grants the city receives. Larsen persisted in saying he respects the vote of the people. He preferred continuing the moratorium.

Bangsund said, once again, as a career educator, he could not tell kids it was now OK. Wilson believed the city was trying to legislate morality.

"My problem is, I don't think city government or federal government, should legislate morality. I think that is what this is. Whether its alcohol or marijuana, doesn't matter," Wilson said. "As a legislative body, I don't think we should legislate morality. That's what happened during prohibition. The black market profited by that. It's not our place to tell people what to do and we know better than you."

Leavenworth resident Leah Hemberry said regulating away legal access will do nothing to prevent the use of marijuana in the city of Leavenworth. She said marijuana is the second biggest cash crop in the state behind apples.

"As much as we are saying we are not trying legislate morality, it does seem there is an undercurrent, a stigma, and there is a goal by some people to reduce the amount of marijuana used in the city," Hemberry said. "All you are doing is propping up the black market. They love to see access points denied. It only increases their profits."

Cascade High School Athletic Director Elia Ala'ilima-Daley said while 55 percent of state voters approved I-502, he doesn't believe 55 percent voted for it in Leavenworth. Daley said, if people want to do it, they should go to Seattle.

In discussions with other high school students, Cascade High School ASB President Caleb Spiegel-Ostrom said they would encourage the council to take a pragmatic viewpoint on this.

"It's really easy to have a knee jerk reaction for something that has been banned for so long," Spiegel-Ostrom said. "It's been universally seen as an evil. What I've seen among my peers is a willingness to have an open mind and take a pragmatic approach and consider the fact that prohibition really doesn't work."

As the council was set to take a vote, Bangsund suggested they wait until missing council member Francis was present. At that point, the council voted to continue this motion until the April 22 meeting, whether or not all council members are present.

The city's six month moratorium on recreational marijuana expires on April 21.

Ian Dunn can be reached at 548-5286 or

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