By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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“The county has basically blown us off,” said Karen Page, one of the meeting organizers who said her neighbor is preparing a growing operation next to her home on Egg & I Road.
The meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. today at the Tri-Area Community Center, 10 West Valley Road in Chimacum.
“They say growing marijuana in this county is like growing kale,” Page said about county officials.
“But it is nothing like growing kale. You don’t have to have an 8-foot fence to grow kale.”
Jefferson County considers marijuana growing an agricultural activity, though officials will make sure it complies with state rules, County Administrator Philip Morley said.
Processing facilities would need conditional-use permits because they would be done in buildings, he said.
“We so far have not seen a legal basis for being able to distinguish this crop from other crops in a way that would withstand scrutiny,” Morley said.
In neighboring Clallam County, planners did not classify marijuana as an agricultural commodity because it is still illegal under federal law, is highly regulated by the state Liquor Control Board and comes with local concerns over odors, lighting and security.
The state Liquor Control Board has not issued any licenses in Jefferson County to grow or process recreational marijuana, made legal when voters approved Initiative 502 in November 2012.
As of Tuesday, 26 people have applied to grow marijuana, and 27 have applied to be processors. Many of those applications are for the same businesses.
“They’re preparing right next to a lot of us,” Page said. “They want to be ready when the Liquor Control Board says, ‘OK, you’re ready, you passed, and you got your license.’”
The state has licensed three marijuana operations on the North Olympic Peninsula: one at Dungeness, one outside Port Angeles and one in unincorporated Forks.
Page, who said she voted in favor of I-502, advocates requiring conditional-use permits for marijuana operations not sited in industrial areas, saying it would give neighbors the chance to comment.
“We are one of the few counties in the entire state that did not do any sort of moratorium or regulation or public process or anything about marijuana growers or processors in residential areas,” Page said.
Page and some of her neighbors asked Jefferson County commissioners to implement more stringent regulations on marijuana growing in April.
“We’re sympathetic with the concerns that neighbors have, but so far, our review has shown that our regulations are adequate,” Morley said.
“Over time, if we realize there are issues that our current regulations don’t address, we will take another look at them.”
Other neighbors, Page noted, are worried about having growing and processing operations next to the yards in which their children play.
She said she is concerned about wastewater from a grow operation running off through her property and into Chimacum Creek.
Another concern is use of water from the Chimacum Creek watershed, which is restricted by the state Department of Ecology.
Morley said marijuana operations, like any business in the creek’s watershed, would need approval from Ecology to use water.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.