JPs mull pot grow­ing or­di­nance

Com­mit­tee dis­cusses mar­i­juana cul­ti­va­tion in Wash­ing­ton County

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - SCAR­LET SIMS

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.

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