While the legalization of marijuana in Colorado has led to retail cannabis shops running out of weed, the other state that legalized recreational pot in November 2012 is still sputtering at the ganja gate.
Thursday, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued an opinion that I-502, the initiative that made pot legal for adult use, is “silent” on whether or not local governments can deny business licenses to cultivation facilities, processing centers and retail pot shops. Because the bill doesn’t explicitly address the issue, Ferguson believes each jurisdiction has the authority to impose bans on such businesses.
The Washington Liquor Control Board asked Ferguson to weigh in on the legality of pot business bans, fearing that local moratoriums and bans could fuel the cannabis black market. The WLCB is the state body charged with regulating legal recreational pot in the state.
In a statement, WLCB Chairwoman Sharon Foster said Ferguson's opinion is a disappointment to the majority of voters that passed I-502. Foster added that it could reduce the expected revenue of legal cannabis sales.
However, the local ordinances of some Washington jurisdictions require all businesses to obey federal law, which prohibits marijuana use, growth and sales regardless of state law. Almost three dozen of Washington’s 75 biggest cities have already established moratoriums of up to one year on all recreational pot business interests.
In response, a bill introduced by state Rep David Sawyer (D) would penalize local governments for banning recreational pot businesses by denying those cities liquor revenues.
"It was never intended by anybody who voted for [I-502], they never thought that their local government would obstruct the will of the voters," Rep Sawyer said. "That's what they're doing and that's what we're going to fix."