Gene Waller

SPEAKING UP — Telling the Sunnyside City Council he doesn’t wish for a retail marijuana ordinance to be passed is Gene Waller.

SUNNYSIDE — Sunnyside’s City Council is rescheduling consideration of the proposed ordinance to modify the current zoning prohibiting the retail sale of marijuana.

However, it is unknown when the council’s schedules will be aligned, allowing a date to be set.

A public hearing will first be set — potentially for a special meeting.

The council has stated its desire to have all members present for meetings on the matter.

When a new date is selected, a 10-day notice will be provided, and meetings will be scheduled for the hearing, as well as the vote on the proposed ordinance.

Last Monday, May 13, there were three people who stood at the lectern to express their thoughts during the unscheduled appearances by citizens portion of the regular meeting.

Gene Waller was the first to address the City Council, quoting former Yakima County Sheriff Brian Winter, who said marijuana “is a gateway drug.”

The concern, Waller said, is for his grandchildren and other children in the community.

“It’s my belief it’s responsible to provide a safe, healthy environment for them,” he said.

Waller asked the council members to consider if it’s “… better to have a safe, drug-free environment, or is it better to have more tax money for the city coffers.”

Sandra Linde, who is a School Board member and works at Astria Sunnyside Hospital, expressed herself, stating her opinion hasn’t changed and neither has that of her employer or the School District.

“My world revolves around the city,” she said.

A recent editorial, Linde said, suggested not speaking to the council would lead to the impression her mind had changed.

Also speaking at the meeting was Cathy Kelley, who retired after years of serving as a substance use counselor and the coordinator for Sunnyside United-Unidos.

Her background compels her objection to an ordinance that would allow retail marijuana sales in the community.

“It should come as no surprise,” Kelley said.

She, too, was intent on speaking because of the editorial in the Sunnyside Sun, as well as a conversation she had with someone on staff.

“I do think we can hold on forever, if we need to… other communities have,” Kelley said in reference to a past comment by a City Council member.

“A store in the community gives the message that it’s (marijuana) okay,” she said.

Kelley doesn’t want marijuana to be accepted as normal, stating it leads youth to believe it’s use is acceptable.

She also said it doesn’t make sense to generate tax money from a marijuana retailer to pay for prevention programs.

Jennie McGhan can be contacted at 509-837-4500, ext. 114 or email JMcGhan@sunnysidesun.com

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