County Cannabis Post-Election

Jonathan Olsen-Koziol, Staff Reporter

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While the world is buzzing about President-elect Donald J. Trump, local elections also produced results worth discussion.

The Kittitas County Commissioner election results were tallied and both seats had incumbent winners. Paul Jewell and Laura Osiadacz both retained their commissioner seats. Both candidates have publicly voiced their disapproval of legal cannabis in Kittitas County.

The commissioners’ reasons for keeping marijuana out of the valley have some truth behind them, but there is more to the story.

Commissioner Jewell claims that emergency calls involving marijuana are up since I-502 has passed. Rich Elliott, the deputy chief for Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue, said there is validity to Jewell’s claims, but that he doesn’t think  marijuana is a volatile issue.

Emergency calls involving marijuana (mainly marijuana edibles) have increased according to Elliott, and the records back that up. There were seven calls in 2014, four calls in 2015 and 14 in 2016, while alcohol-related calls are down from 134 in 2014 with 116 in 2015 and 93 in 2016.

Marijuana-related calls are up over 50 percent from last year, but the relatively low total paired with the diminished severity of each call makes this a non-issue from an EMS perspective.

Marijuana-related calls are all “low acuity,” meaning that the people being treated by paramedics are “not really that sick,” Elliott said. He added that calls dealing with weed and people that are stoned are easier to deal with and less dangerous than calls involving alcohol and drunk people.  

Elliott thinks there will always be some kind of anti-pot movement because it’s “just how they grew up.” It’s that same anti-pot movement that keeps marijuana processors out of Kittitas County.

Jewell and the county commissioners ignored zoning recommendations concerning marijuana, and re-opened the zoning proposal for the county in 2014 after its vocal anti-pot proponents spoke out against marijuana processors they believe would’ve potentially upset the agricultural balance in the county.

Mike Graham operates Natural Mystic Farms and wonders why the commissioners would micro-manage an issue they don’t have professional experience with . The original zoning parameters set by Planning Official Doc Hansen were suitable for I-502 producers and allowed them to operate in “farm first” areas  Graham said.

Jewell’s success to keep processors out of the county troubles Graham. Graham said he employs 25 people who are paid between $12.50 and $15 an hour and he believes anyone trying to keep jobs out of the county, doesn’t have the county’s best interests in mind.

“I guess [Jewell] doesn’t want a competitive labor market, available jobs or growth in the area. It makes no sense to me,” Graham said.

Graham also disputes Jewell’s claim that the county doesn’t benefit from Washington state receiving tax revenue from I-502. Zoning marijuana producers out of Kittitas County could bar the county from receiving direct profits from I-502. However, Kittitas County will still have state tax benefits regardless.  

“Last I checked, Kittitas County is in Washington state. This isn’t the republic or empire of Kittitas County,” Graham said.

Graham hopes the producers and commissioners can find some middle ground on these issues can and progress can be made.

“They are supposed to help businessmen run their business, not impede businesses from doing something positive,” Graham said.

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County Cannabis Post-Election