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Milton argues pot facility harmless while opponents seek specifics

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Seattle developer Brandon Milton again spoke with the Vader City Council Thursday to seek support for his proposed marijuana production facility, this time armed with reports indicating legalized marijuana will not harm the city as his opponents have argued.

Cited by Milton were recent online articles analyzing crime statistics in Colorado after its legalization of recreational marijuana, as well as a study looking at crime trends in states with legalized medical marijuana.

“Since the last time we’ve talked about this, a few months have gone by, and we have new information that speaks directly to what that [recreational marijuana] looks like,” he told the council, providing them with copies of the articles in question.

Shared were a March 26 blog entry from The Washington Post’s website,which stated FBI statistics between 1990 and 2006 showed no significant increase in crime in states which have legalized medical marijuana, as well as an April 10 article from online newspaper Inquisitr, which reported property crimes and violent crimes in Denver have dropped since January.

Milton also told the council of changes to the potential business model for his proposed facility, which he says will now depend on around two acres of marijuana growth rather than five, spread out between as many as six partner companies.

One such potential partner, Jane Waite, of Kelso, told the council she believes marijuana is unfairly demonized, stating she, her son and the father of her son have a history of marijuana use and still have been able to succeed in life. She also said, as a former caseworker for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, she feels marijuana has not been responsible for the social ills she has encountered rather than other factors.

“With the consensus of the voters of this state,” she said, “legal marijuana is inevitable, so why not be on the forefront and reap the benefits.”

When proponents were done speaking, Milton entertained questions from both the council and public, who asked about the specifics of his proposal.

One resident asked what the city’s tax income would be from Milton’s facility, and Milton replied property tax revenue would increase as he is able to develop his land, but acknowledged marijuana-specific taxes would not go directly to Vader.

Another resident asked if Milton has adequate financial backing to begin his business if the state does award him a license, and Milton said, “I‘m here in front of you because I’m ready to do it,” but declined to offer specifics.

City Clerk Jill Neilson also posed a question about Milton’s compliance with building regulations, stating she understands he has not acquired a proper building permit, as such permits must be approved based on a developer’s anticipated business model and Milton’s current permit does not account for recreational marijuana production.

Milton replied the construction taking place on his property still relates to a retail auto wrecking yard, upon which basis his current permit was approved, though Neilson said she understands the potential recreational marijuana uses of his property are enough of a change to require applying for a new permit before continuing further with any construction. Mayor Ken Smith stated this matter required further discussion than what could be dedicated during a workshop.

When opponents spoke against the proposal, they asked Milton how he plans to mitigate the potential harmful effects of his development, such as how the building will be vented to prevent foul odors, as well as the anticipated increase in Vader’s law enforcement needs.

Milton replied the state will eventually approve the ventilation system for his plant, though he had indicated last year he expects his marijuana to be grown outdoors until enclosed facilities are built on the property, and said he expects to provide 24/7 security to prevent crime at his facility while not being responsible for the overall law enforcement needs of Vader.

Speaking last at the workshop was Julie Smith, wife of Ken Smith, who said, as duly elected representatives of the people of Vader, the decisions of the council “trump” Milton’s interests, adding Vader is too small of a town to endure a recreational marijuana facility.

When asked to respond to this statement after the meeting, Milton said he feels both sides are interested in doing the right thing for Vader while the overall issue of the city’s rights versus a private business owner’s rights will be decided within courts and the legislature rather than by himself or Vader.

It is expected the council will reexamine a current six-month ban against marijuana facilities during their June 26 meeting, though no indication was given Thursday of their intent either to amend, abolish or make permanent the ban. Officials have previously indicated they feel the potential benefits of a marijuana facility would not outweigh its potential harm to the community.

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