By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – Lewis County commissioners yesterday morning put an emergency moratorium in place on receiving applications for collective medical marijuana gardens.
A new state law went into effect on July 22 allowing up to 10 medical marijuana patients to grow their marijuana in a single plot, but county officials want to create land use rules to regulate the plantings.
The three commissioners suggested there are more questions than answers at this point.
The sheriff’s office and the prosecutor’s office are working on a proposal to put before the county planning commission, Lewis County Board of Commissioners Chair Ron Averill said yesterday.
A public hearing will be held on the morning of Aug. 15, to receive input from the public on proposed local rules, the commissioners said yesterday.
“We will probably opt for the most restrictive we can get,” Averill said.
On the same day, county commissioners plan to put a 60-day moratorium in place, according to Averill.
County Commissioner Bill Schulte described some of his concerns later yesterday morning.
Schulte worries about teenagers and criminals raiding the gardens and the security of crops only legal for certain people to cultivate and use.
A nightmare scenario is that which existed in northern California when he was stationed in the Coast Guard there in the late 1970s, early 1980s, he said.
Local law enforcement looked the other way somewhat when residents around Eureka grew marijuana and the plots drew armed bandits and shootouts, as in turn, marijuana farmers began setting booby traps, Schulte said.
The National Forest was so dangerous, members of the Coast Guard in Eureka were told not to hike there, he said.
Schulte wasn’t sure if the new state law allowed 45 or 99 plants per plot, but either would be very attractive to outsiders, he said.
The moratorium will give county officials time to find the best way to handle the gardens, he said.
Among the questions they have are would multiple plots be allowed on the same acreage, for example, he said. And, who will be responsible for protecting the crops, he asked.
“If you get ‘em too clustered, they’re a bigger target,” Schulte said. “If you spread them out, they’re harder to police.”
The commissioner said they’d like to hear ideas from the public about how the county should deal with the gardens.
He agrees with Averill’s notion about making Lewis County unfriendly to potential collective cultivators.
“I’d like to make it difficult enough they grow it in Clark County, or Cowlitz, or Thurston County,” Schulte said.
The city of Centralia is expected to put a six-month moratorium in place as well.