JPs mull pot growing ordinance
Committee discusses marijuana cultivation in Washington County
FAYETTEVILLE — Washington County lawmakers consider approving ordinances that regulate marijuana dispensaries or cultivators locally, Justice of the Peace Joel Maxwell said Monday during an Ordinance Review Committee.
“We just have to make sure we engage this in a way that is best for the county,” Maxwell said.
Maxwell is a Republican representing western Washington County.
The Planning Department recently fielded an informal query about cultivating marijuana in Maxwell’s district, Director Jim Kimbrow said. About three people have asked about growing marijuana inside the county’s boundaries, he said.
Nothing has been submitted as a formal request.
Interest is growing after the state released regulations surrounding approving and regulating growing and selling marijuana this year. The state plans to approve five cultivators to supply 32 dispensaries statewide.
Voters approved marijuana for medical use last year, but no one has yet been approved to cultivate or dispense it statewide.
Under current planning, marijuana cultivation technically could be considered a “land rights” use under Washington County’s agricultural zoning, Kimbrow said. However, those crafting the county’s zoning rules never consider marijuana. The Planning Department plans to have applicants go through the process for a conditional use permit, he said.
“I want to see some oversight on the deal rather than to say this is land-use by right,” Kimbrow said.
A conditional use permit allows the county to have more input and oversight, and requires the approval of the Planning Board and Quorum Court.
County Judge’s Office employees have met with lobbyists interested in opening dispensaries, County Attorney Brian Lester said. The Planning Department has had three inquiries related to marijuana, including an inquiry from someone in Colorado, Kimbrow said.
Marijuana in Washington County is “inevitable,” Kimbrow said.
“It will happen to us, and we’ll have to deal with it,” he said.
In other business, justices of the peace plan to consider tweaks to the dangerous animal ordinance and reduce the number of members on the Washington County Animal Concerns Advisory Board.
Justices of the peace said they want to reduce the number of advisory board members from nine to six.
Other changes under consideration include reducing the amount of time an animal is kept in the shelter before adoption or euthanasia from
10 to five days and closing a loophole that allows people whose dogs require quarantine to avoid getting their pets neutered by housing them at their veterinarian’s office.
The committee approved sending a request to raise Planning Department fees to the Quorum Court.
Under the proposal, fees would basically double, Kimbrow said. The move would put Washington County costs in line with Benton County and Fayetteville, he said.