Late Friday a Washington State judge ruled in favor of a town that banned legal recreational marijuana sales. Pierce County Superior Court Judge Ronald Culpepper’s ruling came after extensive arguing by all sides. The case involved the attorney for the Tacoma suburb of Fife, the attorney for a store owner who wants to operate in Fife, as well as the Washington Attorney General who was there to protect state law. Per ABC News:
Fife’s lawyers argued that nothing in the state law overruled cities’ zoning authority, while Wetherbee’s attorneys insisted that if local governments can ban licensed growers, processor and sellers, it would undermine voters’ desire to displace illegal pot sales.
Culpepper said Wetherbee did not prove that banning pot shops in such a small city — 5 square miles and fewer than 10,000 people — would thwart the will of the voters; there are shops open in neighboring Tacoma.
The analysis might be different for bans in Pierce County or other more populous or larger parts of the state, Culpepper suggested.
Right now there are 28 cities in Washington and two counties that have outright banned marijuana stores from opening and operating in their jurisdictions. Many more municipalities have issued moratoriums to prevent shops from opening until they can establish their own rules.
For the sake of hurting the black market, and for the sake of the future of the industry, I hope this issue gets resolved. An appeal is imminent, which could lead to a different decision. As the judge suggested, the analysis could be different for challenges in other areas. At least one prominent marijuana activist, Dan Riffle from the Marijuana Policy Project, hopes that there is no appeal. Dan Riffle tweeted after the ruling, stating, “Local bans? No problem. Importance of Fife #I502 ruling is no federal preemption finding. I hope there’s no appeal.”