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Federal Way to maintain current path on marijuana businesses, despite AG's opinion

Marijuana was legalized in Washington after a statewide vote in November 2012. - Courtesy Of Sensible Washington
Marijuana was legalized in Washington after a statewide vote in November 2012.
— image credit: Courtesy Of Sensible Washington

As the implementation of legalized marijuana continues throughout Washington, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued a “formal opinion” on the matter on Jan. 16, indicating that local municipalities will continue to have the prerogative in choosing how their cities deal with such businesses.

“Under Washington law, there is a strong presumption against finding that state law preempts local ordinances,” Ferguson wrote in his opinion. “Although Initiative 502 establishes a licensing and regulatory system for marijuana producers, processors and retailers in Washington state, it includes no clear indication that it was intended to preempt local authority to regulate such businesses. We therefore conclude that I-502 left in place the normal powers of local governments to regulate within their jurisdictions.”

Ferguson’s opinion will have little effect on Federal Way’s approach to marijuana-related businesses, according to city spokesperson Chris Carrel. The city enacted a one-year moratorium on such businesses last November, and still plans to use the time to construct its approach to this issue.

“(The city) hasn’t discussed the authority the attorney general discussed regarding being able to ban marijuana sales,” Carrel said. “To date, the city’s focus has been putting in place policies to successfully implement the legalization, as called for under the people’s initiative. As you know, the Council passed a one-year moratorium on collective gardens and marijuana sales, and that was done because the city needed a pause to be able to have a thoughtful approach to a regulatory and law enforcement process as we move forward.”

The city has imposed a number of moratoriums on marijuana-related businesses and gardens since 2011, when a small number of medical marijuana dispensaries opened in the city. At that time, the operators of the dispensaries in the city had sidestepped acquiring the proper business licenses, giving the city leeway to shut the businesses down.

The state Liquor Control Board approved a total of 334 marijuana retail outlets statewide, with 61 slated for King County. Federal Way was approved for three legal marijuana stores.

Seattle was approved for 21 stores, with 11 "at large" stores approved for King County.

A formula based on population determined the number of retail locations for each municipality.

 

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