PROSSER — Despite the lighted “Weed” sign at the entrance to the city, Benton County commissioners on Tuesday decided to take a hard line against marijuana.

During a 9 a.m. meeting, the commissioners agreed to immediately ban new growing operations as well as implement strict new limits on medical marijuana.

Existing, licensed businesses are grandfathered as legal under the change.

The ban replaces a sixth-month moratorium on growing operations and governs both recreational pot and medical marijuana.

Commissioners also gave law enforcement much more latitude when in comes to being able to view marijuana or smell it from a public place.

Under the new ordinance, the Benton County Sheriff’s Office can issue citations to pot growers whose crop can be seen or smelled by a neighbor or in a public area.

During the commission meeting, the three members agreed to new regulations on medical marijuana storage, as well.

Commissioners limited medical marijuana users to only 15 plants, provided they have a prescription from a licensed doctor.

The new regulations also require individuals to grow all of their medicinal plants inside a building, such as a home or a garage.

The new regulations also include new language in zoning rules making “community” grows a citable offense.

Under the new rules, medical marijuana cooperatives and group grows are prohibited, officials said.

Grandfathered businesses will be able to add indoor growing operations, but cannot expand their outdoor grows.

But the grandfather clause does not extend to the new sight and smell regulations

The changes in the marijuana laws apply to unincorporated areas of Benton County only, officials said.

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