Tuesday was the first day legal recreational marijuana went on sale in Washington. But as when alcohol first became legal after prohibition, there are some areas of the state where sales have been prohibited. Several counties and municipalities have decided that recreational marijuana sales will be banned, despite the public vote to approve Initiative 502.
Local governments based their move on a written analysis from State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, which said there was nothing in the Initiative that kept local governments from putting in place moratoriums on pot sales. In Wenatchee, one potential pot entrepreneur is mounting a legal challenge to a moratorium there.
The Liquor Control Board’s Chris Marr says it remains to be seen how the local municipality crafts their defense. They can either site the Attorney Generals’ ruling, or cite Federal law that outlaws marijuana. But using that defense could be costly.
Marr: “But what is sure this will cost a lot of money for a local government to test all the way to the Supreme Court. And unless they have someone willing with deep pockets to step in and defend the law suit all the way down the line, there’s some question whether a city will go that far.”
Marr says citing state law might be more successful for a municipality, although the crafters of Initiative 502 say they intended for no provision where legal marijuana is prohibited from sale. He says there about 60 municipalities and counties that have enacted moratoriums on pot sales and production. He points out that unincorporated Whitman county had a ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages until 1986 even though prohibition was repealed in 1933.