Attorney General: Cities could possibly ban marijuana business

January 28, 2014

By Peter Clark

As the Issaquah City Council decides how to tailor local regulations for recreational marijuana sales, a recent opinion from state Attorney General Robert Ferguson gave another possibility for it to consider.

Ferguson handed down an opinion Jan. 16 saying he found nothing stopping municipalities from banning or limiting the sale of recreational marijuana.

“Although Initiative 502 establishes a licensing and regulatory system for marijuana producers, processers and retailers in Washington state, it includes no clear indication that it was intended to pre-empt local authority to regulate such businesses,” the opinion read. “We therefore conclude that I-502 left in place the normal powers of local governments to regulate within their jurisdictions.”

The opinion found that Washington courts usually favored local restrictions on activities that the state regulates but does not guarantee as a right.

Though the opinion serves as legal advice for the state, the courts would ultimately decide the matter. That uncertainty might keep the city from exploring that option.

“It’s a nonbinding opinion,” City Associate Planner Jason Rogers said. “If it ever goes to court, they’ll look at it and they can ignore it if it’s their choice. There’s no way to know until it’s challenged.”

As the council looks at possibly extending the current moratorium on marijuana business activities to include more public opinion, Ferguson’s opinion gives the city more topics of discussion.

“We’re definitely in uncharted territory,” Rogers said. “At this point, it’s more information for the City Council, and we’ll see what they say. In the bigger picture, it doesn’t change too much.”

 

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