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The Return of Weed 

Marijuana activists hit City Hall (again). Plus, a change to the Comp Plan stirs controversy in north Spokane.

click to enlarge Medical marijuana activists earlier this year. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Medical marijuana activists earlier this year.

Two new ballot measures regarding the possession and sale of marijuana were forwarded to Spokane’s city legal department at Monday’s City Council meeting.

The first proposal would reduce the penalty for possessing 40 grams or less of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction. The violation would still be a misdemeanor if the person were a minor.

The second ordinance would allow the city to issue business permits for medical marijuana dispensaries. It would also establish laws governing, but not approving, the use of medical marijuana.

The measures were proposed by Spokane Designated Provider, a local medical marijuana advocacy group.

By regulating medical marijuana under state law, the measures are reflective of the rocky history the substances have with local federal law enforcement, which classifies marijuana as one of the most harmful drugs available.

Last April, Eastern Washington U.S. Attorney Michael Ormsby sent letters to about 55 local medical marijuana dispensaries, threatening them with property seizures if they didn’t shut down. The letters were followed by raids of the local dispensaries that didn’t close their doors.

While Spokane used to have twice as many dispensaries as it did McDonald’s restaurants, it now has none, or at least none operating openly. (Chris Stein)

Steep Hill to Climb

The Spokane City Council is considering amendments to the Comprehensive Plan that could transform a barren hillside along North Monroe Street below Garland Avenue.

The city proposed a zoning change at the property (which is known chiefly as a haven for political campaign signs during election season) that would change it from single-family residential to highdensity residential. That would make it easier for a developer to build a low-income housing complex there.

Unsurprisingly, some nearby neighbors protested, complaining about the possible impact on traffic, real estate values, natural areas and the view.

“Any buildings will be clearly seen from my house and take away value from my home, and the quiet family R-1 Zoning I enjoy now,” neighbor Mike Nolette told the city in a handwritten note. “P.S. No one in the ‘hood’ wants the rezone.”

In a briefing for the planning commission, City Planner Marla French found the project in tune with the larger Comp Plan and wrote that it wouldn’t have a significant adverse effect on the public.

But the planning commission, in a split 4-3 decision, sided with the neighborhood — largely because of neighborhood opposition. Now, French has to rewrite the findings to fit with the commissions’ decision.

The City Council, however, will make the final determination.

They’ll first discuss the Comp Plan amendments on Oct. 6. (Daniel Walters)

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