After receiving complaints about the smell of growing cannabis, Spokane County in eastern Washington State last week adopted a temporary 6-month moratorium on permits for outdoor cannabis farms.
Any new growing operation permitted within the county between now and June will need to be a fully enclosed indoor grow.
According to state law, the council’s adoption of the moratorium forces the county to hold a public hearing within 60 days of the vote.
Commissioner Al French, who also serves on the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency board, said in a statement, “When the buds are in blossom, they emit an odor that makes adjacent property owners unable to utilize their land.”
The new ban will not affect existing farms or those with pending applications.
The policy change came as a surprise to a number of Eastern Washington cannabis farmers, including Crystal Oliver, who along with her husband Kevin, are rural cannabis farmers in Spokane County. Crystal Oliver is co-founder of Washington’s Finest Cannabis and is a board member of the Cannabis Farmer’s Council. She found a number of disturbing irregularities in the Council’s action. The vote was not on the Council’s published agenda, Oliver said. “I personally review the county commission meeting agenda each week,” she said. “If this had been on the agenda, I would have been there.”
Oliver also pointed out that two of the county commissioners, Shelly O’Quinn and Josh Kerns, ran for election on platforms that included economic development, job creation, and property rights protection. “I find it concerning that they would choose to adopt an ordinance that will limit creation of jobs,” Oliver told Leafly. “This is one of the fastest growing industries the United States has ever seen.”
Of the complaints received by the Spokane Clean Air Agency from October 2014 to March 2016, many—but not all—were associated with licensed cannabis farms. Some of the complaints were from personal medical marijuana grows or illicit grows located in houses.
18 farms were the subject of complaints in Spokane County. One farm in particular, Bang’s Cannabis in the town of Cheney, received the overwhelming majority of complaints. The Clean Air Agency tallied 107 odor complaints between October 2014 and March 2016. 54 were related to Bang’s, a cannabis grower specializing in high-quality, chemically pure cannabis products.
Lacey Bang, co-owner of Bang’s Cannabis, declined Leafly’s requests for comment about the complaints. Bang and her husband and business partner Patrick Bang may not be unaware of the complaints, however. The company’s Facebook page includes a photo of a choice cannabis flower and the hashtag #smellusforamile.
Crystal Oliver said she’s reached out to John Pederson of the Spokane County Planning Department, to understand how the moratorium might impact existing cannabis farmers. Oliver expressed concern over the ability of existing farmers to grow and expand their operations within the county.
Pederson told the Spokane Spokesman-Review that existing indoor cannabis farms will not be allowed to expand to outdoor grow, under the terms of the moratorium. Also, existing outdoor cannabis farms will not be allowed to expand their outdoor operations unless the property owner asks for expansion of a non-conforming use. That, he said, would require a Conditional Use Permit.
A hastily-called meeting of cannabis farmers from the region attracted more than 50 growers last Wednesday night. “Over half were immediately impacted by the ordinance,” Oliver said, “and others could be impacted in the future.”
Below is the full ordinance.
Gage Peake is a staff writer who specializes in breaking news coverage, politics, and sports.
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