Fighting Moratoriums in Washington

Washington State lawmakers want to discourage local governments from enacting marijuana moratoriums.

On Tuesday, a group of 10 lawmakers proposed two bills that are aimed at curbing local marijuana bans. The bills were prompted by concerns that moratoriums would severely limit access to recreational marijuana, and thus allow the current black-market industry to thrive.

One bill, HB 2322, would penalize any municipality that imposes a ban by making it ineligible to receive a cut of the state’s liquor licensing fees, a total fund estimated last year at $49.5 million.

The accompanying bill, HB 2144, takes a softer approach. Under this bill, the state would provide local municipalities 30% of the state’s excise tax revenues on recreational marijuana sales.

The Center for Cannabis Science and Social Policy reports that at least 1.5 million Washington residents could be impacted by access restrictions, particularly in the southern part of the state.

Under Washington’s I-502 law, which legalized recreational marijuana, municipalities retain authority to pass zoning regulations and essentially ban marijuana businesses. In addition, local officials have final authority to grant licenses for operation, after the business has passed through the state’s licensing process.