Making something legal doesn’t make it universally accepted.
That’s the case for marijuana in Washington state as more cities and counties vote to ban or impose moratoriums on its production and sale. Snohomish, on a 4-3 vote, was the most recent municipality in the county to impose an outright ban on marijuana businesses. More than 40 cities in the state, including six in Snohomish County, and Pierce, Clark and Yakima counties have similar bans. Another 80, such as Lynnwood, have moratoriums in place.
Cities and counties are well within their rights to impose such bans, at least until the state Supreme Court determines otherwise. The state Attorney General wrote an opinion earlier in the year affirming local governments’ ability to ban marijuana businesses. And two Superior Court judges in Pierce and Chelan counties, have upheld bans in Fife and Wenatchee.
But there’s reason for cities and counties to reconsider their bans on marijuana businesses and instead zone them to appropriate areas.
Barring legitimate marijuana businesses does nothing to discourage the black market production and sale of pot, which was one of the selling points of Initiative 502 when it was approved by voters in 2012 with nearly 56 percent approval.
And banning marijuana businesses could eventually make obtaining it difficult for medical marijuana patients. The Legislature, when it convenes in January, needs to find a way to merge the medical and recreational marijuana systems in the state. The medical marijuana system is largely unregulated — witness the “green mile” of collective gardens along Highway 9 in Clearview — which undercuts the recreational businesses and also is looked on dubiously by the U.S. Department of Justice. The Legislature failed to do so earlier this year, and the DOJ may not be in the mood to give the state much more time.
A merging of recreational and medical marijuana businesses, coupled with a ban of such businesses, would mean some patients would have to make a trip outside of city or county limits to fill their prescriptions.
But a financial consideration may be the most persuasive reason.
Yet to be determined by the state is how to divvy up about half of the tax revenue, projected at $318 million between now and 2019, from the production and sale of marijuana.
Cities and counties are hoping the state divides it among them. But if those cities and counties that ban marijuana businesses think they still deserve a cut, you have to wonder what they’re smoking.