The city of Pasco, Washington this week officially lifted its ten-year ban on cannabis retailers, an historic change for that part of the state. 

The city council there voted 5-3 on Monday in favor of zoning changes that will lift the ban, according to the Tri-City Herald

The newspaper reports that the vote “marks the end of a decade-long struggle by local marijuana activists and business owners to ease government restrictions in the city of 80,000.” 

“The ordinance lifts the ban in three commercial zones (C-1, C-2 and C-3) and three industrial zones (I-1, I-2 and I-3) found throughout the city, and opens up business to certain areas along North Road 68, Kings Corner, Broadmoor Boulevard, East Lewis Street and Court Street. It will take effect five days after approval, pending any publication requirements,” according to the Herald

With the vote, Pasco becomes the first in the so-called “Tri-Cities,” a metro area in eastern Washington comprising three communities that border one another (Richland and Kennewick are the other two).

Washington became one of the first two states in the country to legalize recreational cannabis for adults back in 2012, when voters approved a ballot measure to end the prohibition. (Colorado voters approved a similar proposal that same year.)

Some countries and cities opted out of the new law in Washington, voting instead to ban retail cannabis sales within their jurisdiction. 

But over the years, as legalization has spread nationwide, some residents in those communities began to have second thoughts. The Tri-City Herald reported earlier this year that a “2021 community survey showed that 46% of Pasco residents would not back changes to allow marijuana retail sales in city limits, while about 45% said they would strongly or somewhat support it.”

The newspaper reported in March that the Pasco city council had voted to moved ahead “with plans to draft an ordinance to lift its ban on retail cannabis in commercial and industrial zones,” while rejecting a proposal “to ask voters for their opinion on the issue.”

“The decision puts Pasco ever closer to becoming the first city government in the Tri-Cities to lift its ban on retail cannabis. But they will first need to pass an ordinance in the coming weeks or months before stores can open up to sell pot,” the Herald reported then. “An estimate shows cannabis retailers could bring in at least $200,000 a year in revenue for Pasco, said Interim City Manager Adam Lincoln.”

That day officially came on Monday. 

The city council provided more details on the new ordinance:

“The current draft ordinance does limit the number of potential cannabis retail facilities to three (3) stores with up to four (4) stores total as long as one is a “social equity licensee.” This is reflective of the current number of licenses available for the City of Pasco and Franklin County generally that the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board has allotted. While it is unclear what the actual effect of the Social Equity License Program would be, there appears to be a potential for licenses that have been allotted to other counties to locate in Pasco in the future, and hence, is the reason for the inclusion of a limitation on a number of retail facilities in the draft ordinance. Although, this is not a requirement of any ordinance and can easily be amended should Council choose to do so. It should also be noted that the draft ordinance does not allow ‘cooperatives’ and still prohibits cannabis production and processing facilities within the City of Pasco as was requested by Council.”

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