Puff, puff, pass – the sequel

In 2011 I wrote a post titled, “Puff, puff, pass,” when county commissioners were stalling on adopting regulations for collective medical marijuana gardens.

The title was fitting again this week, when commissioners indicated they would follow Pierce County’s lead and pass on allowing the sale or production of marijuana under Initiative 502 until the feds legalize weed.

So can they do that? Everyone (who cares) is waiting for Attorney General Bob Ferguson to issue an opinion. Sharon Foster, chairwoman of the Washington State Liquor Control Board, wrote Ferguson a Nov. 1 letter asking him to answer the following questions:

  1.  Are local governments preempted by state law from outright banning the location of a WSLCB licensed marijuana producer, processor, or retailer within their jurisdiction?
  2.  May a local government establish land use regulations (in excess of the I-502 buffer and other WSLCB requirements) or business license requirements in a fashion that makes it impractical for a licensed marijuana business to locate within their jurisdiction?

When Ferguson will respond is anybody’s guess.

In Pierce County, a group has threatened to sue, according to a Dec. 15 article in the The News Tribune.

“Tacoma lawyer Jay Berneburg said the measure will be struck down because the county has no authority to ban what state law allows.

” ‘They want a battle,’ Berneburg said. ‘They’re going to get one. They’re not going to win.’

 Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist said the county will rely on federal law if it is sued.

‘This is new territory, and we are aware there may well be legal challenges to the ordinance,’ Lindquist said. ‘The county expects to rely on the supremacy of federal law as a defense.'”

Pierce is a charter county, unlike Clark (unless those freeholders can write something voters will support) and I found this interesting: The county executive, Pat McCarthy, vetoed the county council’s ordinance, saying the ordinance was in conflict with state law and posed a legal risk. But the council, which had adopted the ordinance with a 4-3 vote, was able to overturn McCarthy’s veto with a 5-2 vote.

Imagine: Instead of a county administrator who goes along with whatever commissioners decide, having an elected county executive with veto power.

That could make things at the Public Service Center really interesting.


Stephanie Rice

Stephanie Rice

I cover Vancouver city government. Reach me at stephanie.rice@columbian.com or 360-735-4508.

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