US: How cannabis split rural communities in the Inland Northwest

A young child cries out between action items as families and local business leaders pack into the Whitman County commission chambers in late February. At least two dozen residents had come to speak on a pending permit for a new 3.5-acre marijuana processing facility south of Pullman.

Neighbors argue they don't want the area to become a "Mecca" for marijuana. They tell the county commissioners that cannabis grows can come with noxious odors, increased water usage, higher traffic, potential crime, lower property values and unknown medical risks.

"We have no idea what the health impacts may be for my children, for your children, for the entire county," a local physician says. "Marijuana is not safe. ... I don't want to be part of a randomized control trial of how marijuana's going to impact my family's health."

Several of the county's largest employers — Washington State University, Pullman Regional Hospital and Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories — send representatives to oppose the permit and call for tighter regulations on cannabis producers.

A biological chemistry professor warns commissioners that aerosolized marijuana particles could drift over to the nearby university dairy operation and contaminate its milk supply.

"We're very concerned at WSU," he says, "that that will lead to a significant negative impact both on Ferdinand's ice cream as well as Cougar Gold cheese, which for us is a big deal."


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