Legal pot sales in Ellensburg could increase access for CWU students

KITTITAS COUNTY, Wash. -- Yakima might have banned pot sales, but the drug will likely be more available than ever to thousands of college students. Ellensburg and Kittitas County are opening the door to recreational pot sales. KIMA looked at the potential concerns for this community.

For would-be pot sellers, Yakima is no longer an option. The city moved forward on a ban on legal pot stores. But, Ellensburg and Kittitas County are rolling out the welcome mat - drafting ordinances allowing pot businesses, subject to local zoning.

The proposals could make pot more available to thousands of students at Central Washington University.

"I don't want to say it's a bad thing, but it might affect grades a little bit," said CWU senior Taylor Peterson.

The university isn't concerned. Spokesperson Linda Schactler says students are taught the perils of drug use, even before enrolling.

"Our goal is to make sure the students have all the information they need to make good judgments about their lives. Whether it's beer or marijuana," Schactler said.

That education continues through freshman year. The campus wellness center also offers programs to help students make smart choices. Carrying pot would still be illegal on the CWU campus. But, what students do off-campus is often another story.

A few years back, CWU made national headlines when nine students were severely sickened at an off-campus party after downing Four Loko, a highly-caffeinated malt liquor.

KIMA asked Ellensburg City Councilman Bruce Tabb: "Given the number of college-age kids here who are over 21, having recreational pot available to them just off-campus, is that an issue that worries you?"

"It's not really an issue that worries me," Tabb replied. "I think that fundamentally, what the City of Ellensburg is doing is simply creating a regulatory environment for what is now the law of the State of Washington."

Legal pot use, he says, is not much different from drinking.

"Drinking is a problem for some people. For others, people simply consume alcohol and go about their lives and are fully productive. I envision in essence a similar thing occurring as marijuana becomes legal."

In other words, good for some students, bad for others.

A Seattle-area marijuana company has announced plans to build a $15 million production facility in Kittitas County. It doesn't have a license yet. But, its general manager says as many as 80 jobs could be created. He says he was attracted to the area by the potential for highly-skilled employees from CWU.