Benton Co. commissioners unanimously vote for 6-month ban on new - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Benton Co. commissioners unanimously vote for 6-month ban on new marijuana licenses

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BENTON COUNTY, WA - No more marijuana stores or grows; that's what the Benton County commissioners voted on today, at least for the time being - placing a moratorium on any new licenses in the county.

Benton County Commissioner Shon Small says they want to get their ducks in a row and be on the same page with the other entities involved with granting and enforcement of marijuana licenses, because he says right now, there's a lot of miscommunication.

"The County of Benton now has a moratorium, so there's not going to be any more licenses or any more grows being allowed at all for right now," Commissioner Small said.

A unanimous vote from the Benton County commissioners today, after months of complaints from Benton County residents opposed to legalized marijuana growers and stores in areas near their homes and schools.

Commissioner Small says the moratorium will run six months long, and will only affect future licenses. Businesses that already have licenses - like The Garden LLC, which has the controversial license for a location near West Richland - won't be affected by the moratorium at all.

"The key reason we're wanting to get this moratorium is so therefore, the rest of the team consisting of all those entities we talked about, the sheriff's office, the prosecutor's office, liquor-cannabis board, part of the commissioners office, to be able to get under one roof and actually be under the same sheet of music," said Commissioner Small.

For months, the commissioners have cited a communication disconnect between the county and the state, which they say has made it hard to know what type of control the county actually has over allowing or not allowing marijuana licenses, which are issued by the state.

As for the complaints about the marijuana harvest smell in Finley last week? Commissioner Small says in the future, that's where the Benton Clean Air Agency will come in.

"They're going to go out there and verify that there's actually an odor, and then confirm where the odor is coming from, and then they'll turn around and actually be able to implement the proper regulatory ticket or whatever the case may be on that."

He also says the six-month moratorium on new licenses could possibly be extended once or twice if they think it's necessary, but at least for the next six months, no new licenses will be issued.