Kittitas County says yes to pot growers and processors; no to retailers

KITTITAS COUNTY, Wash. -- Pot will be grown legally in Kittitas County. It can also be processed. It just can't be sold in stores. KIMA heard from people on both sides of the issue.

A 2-1 vote will bring pot growers and processors to unincorporated areas of Kittitas County. The decision didn't sit well with some neighbors.

"I overall feel that this is just a big mistake for our entire area."

"I can see nothing but problems coming."

"I think it's very unacceptable we're being pushed."

Production and processing of marijuana would be allowed in certain agricultural, forest and range and light industrial zones.

Commissioner Obie O'Brien voted in favor. He said it was a vote of the people.

"When I took my oath of office, I said I will support and defend the state laws and the Constitution of the State of Washington," O'Brien said.

He said he also didn't want to expose Kittitas County to lawsuits from licensed growers and processors with deep pockets.

Commissioner Paul Jewell voted to keep it out. He felt the county was no place for these businesses.

Karen Kratz lives three-quarters of a mile from where one Seattle-area company hopes to build a pot processing plant.

"To be putting up a building next to the houses, right there, takes away our beauty," she said. "How am I going to explain to my child when she rides on the bus driving by that plant, what it is?"

Another pot entrepreneur offered a response.

"They should explain it the same way they explain hops or wine for vineyards," said Marco Hoffman. "It's no different than any other agricultural product."

Hoffman says concerns about limited water supplies are overblown and points to the job creation.

"We don't need those Seattle jobs in our community; we don't need pot-growing jobs in our community," said Kratz.

The only thing all three commissioners could agree on was that no retail pot shops will be allowed in the county, limiting the use to only growers and processors.

Commissioner O'Brien says Kittitas County is working with the public health department to educate parents and kids about the dangers of marijuana. It's not yet clear what those programs are or how much they will cost.