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Legal marijuana: State approves 3 stores for Federal Way, but city still says no

This courtesy photo shows a bud of high-grade marijuana. - Wikimedia Commons/Fair Use
This courtesy photo shows a bud of high-grade marijuana.
— image credit: Wikimedia Commons/Fair Use

Up to three recreational marijuana retail stores will be allowed in Federal Way, according to new rules announced last week by the Washington State Liquor Control Board.

However, marijuana stores are still banned in Federal Way.

"We are in the process of reviewing the Liquor Control Board's proposed rules. However, the city's position on business licensing remains the same," city spokesman Chris Carrel told The Mirror in an email. "The city code prevents the city from issuing business licenses for activities that are illegal under local, state or federal law. Since marijuana sales remain illegal under federal law, should the city receive an application for a business license for a marijuana store, the city would not issue a business license."

In 2011, Federal Way issued moratoriums on three medical marijuana dispensaries that opened in city limits. Despite the passage of Initiative 502, which legalized marijuana in Washington after a statewide vote in November 2012, Federal Way's ban still stands.

The liquor board approved a total of 334 marijuana retail outlets statewide, with 61 slated for King County. Seattle was approved for 21 stores, with 11 "at large" stores approved for the county.

A formula based on population determined the number of retail locations for each municipality. Other cities such as Kent — which was approved for three stores by the liquor board — have maintained moratoriums on recreational marijuana outlets.

"If there's a moratorium in the city, it's not going to stop us from granting a license for a location, but we do want them to be in compliance with local regulations," said Brian Smith, liquor board spokesman.

Smith reiterated the board's focus of creating a "tightly regulated market with emphasis on public safety and restricting youth access."

Although licensed and regulated by the state, the stores will be private-sector businesses. The first stores are expected to open in June 2014 with the state's first legally grown and processed marijuana crop. The stores could generate up to $2 billion in tax revenue statewide during the first five years, according to the liquor board.

I-502 does not address medical marijuana outlets, which are exempt from the regulations applied to recreational outlets.

Federal level

In August, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a memorandum that recognized the autonomy of states like Washington and Colorado to enforce their own laws related to legal marijuana cultivation, sales and regulation.

The memo noted that federal enforcement priorities will focus on preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors; preventing revenues from benefiting criminal enterprises; preventing marijuana from being used as a cover for criminal activity; preventing cultivation and use of marijuana on public lands and/or federal property; preventing drugged driving; preventing violence related to cultivation and distribution; and preventing the spread of marijuana to other states.

State timeline

The liquor control board announced the following timeline in regards to new rules for legal marijuana in the state.

• Oct. 9: A public hearing will be held on the proposed rules, with time and location to be announced.

• Oct. 16: The board will adopt or reject the proposed rules.

• Nov. 16: The rules will become effective.

• Nov. 18: The board will begin accepting applications for licenses, for which there are three types: producer, processor and retailer.

• Dec. 1: Deadline for rules to be complete, as mandated by state law.

• Dec. 18: 30-day window closes for license applications.

Learn more

To read the liquor control board's proposed rules, visit http://liq.wa.gov/marijuana/faqs_i-502.

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