Lawsuits Could ‘Destroy’ Rec Cannabis in Washington State

Federal versus local control over marijuana.

That’s the question at the heart of two lawsuits in Washington State involving cities that are seeking to ban recreational cannabis businesses.

Now the state’s attorney general is drawing a clear line in the sand on the issue, saying that Washington’s entire recreational marijuana law would be “destroyed” if a court rules that federal law supersedes state authority.

The pair of lawsuits, filed by recreational marijuana retailers against the municipalities of Fife and Wenatchee, are seeking to overturn bans on recreational marijuana shops the two towns both put in place. The towns argue that since marijuana is still illegal under federal law, then they should have the right to ban recreational sales, which were legalized by Initiative 502 in 2012.

, Lawsuits Could ‘Destroy’ Rec Cannabis in Washington StateWashington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson agrees that the towns should be able to ban the businesses – but not because federal law trumps the state’s marijuana law. Rather, Ferguson said the cities can do so under I-502 itself.

“If the court disagrees and holds I-502 is pre-empted by federal law, and it is upheld on appeal, the marijuana legalization effort would be destroyed,” Ferguson wrote in a brief filed with the court overseeing the case.

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8 comments on “Lawsuits Could ‘Destroy’ Rec Cannabis in Washington State
  1. Bill McConnell on

    This is why we need leadership in Washington to take the stand the people are demanding with a national decriminalization for cannabis and all related products across the board. The GOP attitude that they will protect us from ourselves is overplayed. If your congressman or senator has not taken a stand it is time to vote them out in November.

  2. Seth Tyrssen on

    Serious bad news, since the feds always presume that federal law supersedes states rights. Let us hope that we have a victory for freedom.

  3. Seth Tyrssen on

    Very good points, Bill. I may consider moving to Washington myself, to assist in doing just that — with a twist. Some of us here in Georgia argue that prohibition against marijuana violates freedom of religion, and are forming the Temple of Ankh’n’Abis/Church of the Sacred Herb to present our viewpoint. Yes, we’re serious. No web site addy yet, a lot is still in the works — but even the feds are a little touchy about messing with religion. T of A is not intended to replace anyone’s deeply-held religious beliefs, but to augment and supplement, as we consider all views to be valid for each individual.

  4. Bud Green on

    Actually, cities and counties play both sides of the pre-emption coin. First, they say that they want to enforce federal law. Then, they say state law doesn’t pre-empt their police powers to ban businesses.

    I-502 was, indeed, written to permit local bans, as was SB 420 and this year’s failed Senate Bill 1262 in California. Colorado has its own issues.

    Put the feds aside for the moment; we’ve been dodging that bullet since Prop. 215 and have carved out a legal space that doesn’t directly conflict with the federal Controlled Substances Act. Instead, let’s focus on writing pre-emptive state laws that truly apply statewide for a change. Both the feds and the locals will thank us someday for stubbornly insisting on that core principle, where cities and counties are relegated to lesser roles.

  5. Paul Clark on

    You don’t actually expect common sense out of politicians, do you? Washington can’t get everyday business taken care of let alone make any rational decisions regarding marijuana.

  6. victoria smith on

    So retailers are suing local governments that have banned their businesses. But the same law that allows for the existence of cannabis retail sales allows local governments to ban retail sales in their jurisdictions. It’s like “dry” versus “wet” counties where alcohol sales are subject to local control. Since 502 allows for the bans, I’m not sure what the retailers are challenging. And the courts hearing the cases should rule on the state-level issues in play. Does 502 conflict with the state constitution? Can’t really see how federal law comes into this, unless there is some overreaching judge. Nothing to see here folks, move along…

  7. linda warren on

    The last kicks of a dead horse…The states rights issue gets a lot of play when it for the world view of old/white/conservative/male…local political hacks…All political action is local…We all must get active…TAG your it…”

  8. Seth Tyrssen on

    Can’t agree, Linda; I think the States’ Rights issue can be a very useful bit of “ammo in the arsenal.” You’re quite right about all of us getting active, of course!

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