Ebey’s board against pot restrictions

The Trust Board of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve said that farmers should be able to grow and process recreational marijuana within the area if they wish.

Island County is in the process of developing an ordinance in response to the state’s passing of Initiative 502, which legalized recreational marijuana. Originally, the Island County Planning Commission recommended that the county restrict marijuana operations to the smallest tier — 2,000 square feet or less — and not allow processing and retail operations.

“The Trust Board requests that the language establishing special regulatory conditions for the reserve be removed from the draft regulations,” wrote Kristen Griffin, reserve manager, in a letter to the planning commission last month.

Griffin said that regulations already existing within the Island County code “are the appropriate way to manage I-502 uses within the reserve” and additional restriction were not necessary.

The language was removed from the draft regulations that were approved by the Planning Commission in late March. The regulations will now be drafted into an ordinance that will go before Island County commissioners.

The county put a six-month moratorium in place while they research and develop regulations. County leadership is hoping to have an ordinance in place before the moratorium expires in May.

The Trust Board response was in keeping with the sentiment of dozens of Ebey’s Reserve farmers who told planning commissioners by letter and at a public forum in March that they did not want Ebey’s Reserve to be treated any different when it comes to marijuana.

“As farmers farming within the boundaries of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, this potential precedent setting infringement on the flexibility, competitiveness and sustainability of the agriculture is of deep concern to us,” stated a letter signed by farmers Leonard Engle, Robert Engle, Fran Einterz, Dale Sherman, George Smith, Wilbur Purdue, Clark Bishop and Karen Bishop.

Farmers claimed the restriction on the reserve granted “farmers outside the reserve an unfair competitive advantage and sets a dangerous precent,” wrote Charles Arndt in a letter to county leadership.

Despite the concession to no longer restrict marijuana operations in the reserve, the planning commission still defines the crop as “unlike other plants grown and processed as typical agricultural practices,” a move that many farmers disagree with.

This definition was created because marijuana is subject to tracking, is a controlled substance, may not be traded at farm stands and is expected to be grown primarily indoors, according to the regulations.

Planning commissioner Scott Yonkman said that for him, the decision to define marijuana as not quite agriculture was due to its classification as a controlled substance.

“It’s the primary thing I latched onto and made me feel it was a good decision,” Yonkman said.


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