The Chewelah City Council banned medical marijuana dispensaries at its Nov. 20 regular meeting. Ordinance No. 857 expressed the council's intent "to maintain such a ban until the Washington legislature adopts a regulatory system for medical marijuana consistent with the federal government's enforcement priorities..."
The ordinance cites the lack of a state medical marijuana regulatory system and a August 2013 U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) memorandum to all United States Attorneys. The DOJ memo indicates that, although several states have adopted laws authorizing marijuana production, distribution, and possession, marijuana is still a law enforcement priority important to the federal government as a Schedule I drug. The memo warns that if state enforcement efforts are not "sufficiently robust" to regulate the drug, the federal government may "seek to challenge the regulatory structure itself in addition to continuing to bring individual enforcement actions, including criminal prosecutions..."
The council's ordinance concluded that "there is virtually no state regulatory system for medical marijuana" and, after considering the DOJ memo, "the City has determined that even if the City decided to adopt an ordinance on the subject of medical marijuana in order to provide the type of regulatory system that the DOJ might find adequate to protect against the harms identified in the federal government's enforcement priorities, the City does not have the resources to enforce such a system."
The council also adopted Ordinance No. 858, imposing a moratorium on the acceptance and processing of land use applications for recreational marijuana production, processing and retailing.
The temporary, six month moratorium period will allow the council time to evaluate proposed rules by the Washington State Liquor Control Board and consider compatibility issues with the city's existing land use and zoning regulations.
Initiative 502, which allows for the licensing of marijuana production, processing and retailing facilities, was passed by Washington voters in November 2012.
In other business, the council approved Ordinance No. 855 establishing the City's 2014 property tax levy of $392,018. The amount includes a one percent increase from the 2013 levy, or $3,856.
In new business, Ordinance No. 859 was introduced which will disband the Chewelah Public Library and the Chewelah Library Board effective Jan. 1, 2014. The two entities are no longer necessary since the City was annexed into and became a part of the Stevens County Rural Library District. Voters approved the annexation at a Special Election in April 2013.
The council also heard the introduction of Ordinance No. 860, the city's proposed 2014 budget. The estimated expenditures include the following funds: General Government, $234,265; Public Safety, $795,105; Utilities, $28,025; Airport $7,071; Natural/Economic Environment, $32,920; Social Services, $7,210; Culture/Recreation, $77,103; Debt/Capital/Transfers, $217,912; General Fire Reserve, $1,000; Donation, $500; Street, $270,952; HWY 395 Sidewalks, $126,100; Electric, $1,744,142; Water, $499,427; Sewer, $621,514; Sewer Inflow/Infiltration Reserve, $10,000; Garbage, $363,699; Utility Deposits, $50,000; Shop, $91,556. The total 2014 budget is $5,178,501. A public hearing on the budget will be held at the Council's next regular meeting, Dec. 4, 6:30 p.m.
City Administrator Mike Frizzell reported that the city will hold a surplus vehicle sale mid-December. Vehicles will likely include a police car, pickup, fire truck, and a water department service truck. A sale date will be published later.
Frizzell said that city crews had installed the lighted decorations on Main Ave. and that they had touched-up the paint and replaced nearly 500 bulbs on those decorations. The electric department has hung the chamber banners on Main and Hwy. 395. They have also strung the lights on the tree in front of the library.
Frizzell also reported that city crews had removed several pieces of playground equipment from the park that were deemed unsafe by the city's insurance carrier. They will be replaced by two pieces of new equipment at a later date.
In committee reports, Councilwoman Krisan LeHew announced that the council pool committee would meet to research pool options and discuss the analysis recently completed by Pool World of Spokane. LeHew mentioned that she has asked Inland Northwest Community Foundation to visit the group and explain how to form a local foundation for the purpose of raising funds.
Councilwoman Carra Nupp said that the Library Board had their final meeting as it will be officially disbanded at the end of this year. She thanked all of the volunteers that have offered their help at the library. Nupp also announced that the library will celebrate 100 years in March 2014 and that a definite date will be set later.
By Jared Arnold, The Independent Staff