Unanimous commissioners meeting decision bans additional pot sho - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Unanimous commissioners meeting decision bans additional pot shops in Benton County

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PROSSER, WA - Strong emotions and even some tears today as Benton County Commissioners discussed prohibiting any more pot shops.

The county commissioners voted unanimously to limit the county at just the three existing retail stores, plus the anticipated store near West Richland.

Dozens of people came out today to make their opinions heard. Of the close to 25 people who spoke at the commissioners meeting, it seemed just about everyone in the room would have been happy to get rid of all recreational marijuana sales.

"I personally know of unlicensed grows in Benton County that aren't even trying to hide because it's not being enforced," said Kathlen Wierschke, who supports the banning of pot shops. "If this is the state of our robust regulations as Inslee and Ferguson state in their letter to Jeff Sessions, then we cannot trust that these stores are going to go in and they are going to protect our community and our children."

As the commissioners explained, they can regulate the industry and keep more stores from setting up shop. What they can't do, though, is get rid of existing shops like the store outside of West Richland on Arena Road. But that didn't keep people from giving their two cents on the issue.

"Sometimes as elected officials we need a little reminder, who we work for, and may I remind you the voters of Benton County rejected the marijuana 502 bill and we need to honor that," said Kimberly Heath. 

All in all, just one person spoke in opposition to the ban.

"If you support this ban, you are taking away our legal way to support the taxes and give back to our community," said Holly Mellgren. "And you are just giving us the only option of yeah, we can drive really far in either direction, but a lot of people are just going to keep calling those same people they've been calling for years." 

In the end, it seemed like an easy decision for the commissioners as all three voted to prohibit any additional stores.

Though this specific decision seems to be settled, it seems like a safe bet that it won't be the last time the county commissioners are hearing from people in our area about marijuana.