Yakima police chief supports local pot sales ban

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Union Gap could be the next domino to fall and allow legal pot businesses. It adds to a growing list of nearby cities. It's also right next door to Yakima, which has banned the operations. KIMA spoke with Yakima's police chief on the implications for the city.

Yakima is standing by its decision to ban shops that sell marijuana, despite other communities throughout the Yakima Valley leaning toward allowing it. The latest to express interest is Union Gap, sitting right next door to Yakima.

Yakima will miss out on potential tax revenue to fight crime by banning the sales. Yakima Police Chief Dominic Rizzi isn't concerned.

"Do you think City Council made the right decision?" asked KIMA.

"Personally, yes, I do."

He thinks it wouldn't deregulate the black market, but only make drug dealers more violent.

"If they're not getting money doing that, they're going to find another way. And, my concern is they're turning to violent crime or burglary or theft."

Straining police resources, he says, even further. Chief Rizzi said buyers are also at risk.

"They're walking in with cash. They're walking out with marijuana. And, there is a strong potential that they could be targeted as victims."

But, not everyone in Yakima agrees with City Council or Chief Rizzi. One Yakima neighbor believes licensed pot shops would reduce crime.

"The drug dealers wouldn't have as much income from it," said Ashlee Chard.

But, what about the tax money? State lawmakers are considering bills that would share tax revenues with local jurisdictions. Money, Mabton's mayor told me, that could help him hire another police officer.

KIMA asked Chief Rizzi, "Do you worry about missing out on potential revenues from pot sales?"

"Well, one, I'm not a politician. So, I will work within the means I have. But my concern, if I were the chief of police in Mabton, my concern would be this: If I get revenue sharing and they can give me another police officer, but my crime rate increases and I need four police officers, now I'm three in the hole."

Still, Chief Rizzi hopes that when it comes to legal pot sales, he's proven wrong.

"I would hope that this actually turns out to be a great thing for the state."

But, in Yakima - for now - he's OK doing without.

Union Gap's Planning Commission has only drafted an ordinance that will be subject to a public hearing. Strict zoning requirements would keep pot businesses far away from schools and homes. No decisions have been made by City Council.