An Offer They Can’t Refuse: WA Legislature Introduces Bills To “Deal” With Localities Refusing To Allow Marijuana Sales

Entreating the Godfather

Submitted by Darren Smith, Guest Blogger

In another chapter in the switch of Washington State from waging a war on drugs to marijuana “regulator” the legislature has introduced a bill to punish cities or counties that ban recreational marijuana retailers and another bill rewarding them if they fall in line and allow it. Does this represent an overstepping of the ordinance making authority of local governments?

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued a non-binding opinion proffering the voter approved initiative legalizing the regulated sale and taxation of marijuana contains language that would effectively allow city and county governments to adopt rules stricter than what state law now provides: “Although (the law) 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 pre-empt local authority to regulate such businesses,” the opinion stated and also mentions the questionability of the law and state pre-emption.

Bob Ferguson
Attorney General Bob Ferguson

Some who have purchased marijuana licenses indicated they plan to sue the state if they are denied licenses by localities after the state sold them the right to engage in the marijuana business in a designated territory.

According to news reports nearly three dozen of the state’s 75 biggest cities, from Redmond to Pullman, have adopted moratoriums of up to a year on marijuana businesses, according to a recent study by a Seattle-based marijuana think tank called The Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy. Some have been dropping those temporary bans as they adopt zoning regulations for pot-related businesses, Some jurisdictions, including unincorporated Pierce County, Lakewood and Wenatchee, have effective bans on pot businesses, because their local ordinances require businesses to follow state, federal and local law, and marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

To address the possible of issues of localities not being part of the marijuana family business the legislature introduced the carrot of House Bill 2144 which according to the bill’s digest, “(r)equires distribution by the liquor control board of a specified percentage of marijuana excise tax revenues to local jurisdictions.” and the stick of House Bill 2322 that “(r)equires cities, counties, and towns to cooperate with the liquor control board with respect to the establishment within their jurisdictional boundaries of licensed businesses involved in the production, processing, or sale of recreational marijuana.”

HB2144 allows for the sharing of a piece of the marijuana action by allowing localities to receive from the state some of the excise taxes and sales taxes that under current law would be otherwise be used by the state.

HB2322 provides the muscle to bring noncompliant localities in line, preventing the distribution of revenue collected from Liquor Taxes to be distributed to them. The bill reads that “(t)ransfers of funds to local governments from the liquor revolving fund are subject to the provisions of section 1 of this act. Local governments are ineligible to receive such funding if the liquor control board determines that the local government is noncompliant with the requirements of section 1 of this act.” It also reads: “All transfers of funds to local governments from the liquor excise tax fund are subject to the provisions of section 1 of this act. Local governments are ineligible to receive such funding if the liquor control board determines that the local government is noncompliant with the requirements of section 1 of this act.”

Washington Liquor Control Board Members
Washington Liquor Control Board Members

The concerning part of this also is how The Commission consisting of three unelected and appointed liquor board commissioners can decide a city or a county is noncompliant and revoke them of potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue due to the city councils and county commissioners passing ordinances The Commission disapproves of; effectively negating the local process of government to chose some ordinances they might arbitrarily consider noncompliant. This brings considerable leverage to a fourth branch of government.

In a written statement, Washington State Liquor Board Chairwoman Sharon Foster said “If some local governments impose bans it will impact public safety by allowing the current illicit market to continue. It will also reduce the state’s expectations for revenue generated from the legal system we are putting in place.”

It’s not personal. It’s strictly business.

KING5 News
House Bill 2144 (PDF)
House Bill 2322 (PDF)

Darren Smith, Weekend Blogger
The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility

15 thoughts on “An Offer They Can’t Refuse: WA Legislature Introduces Bills To “Deal” With Localities Refusing To Allow Marijuana Sales”

  1. Up next…
    Driving under the influence
    Refer residue, apparently stays in the blood for 30 days…
    follow the money

  2. When prohibition of alcohol was repealed there were several communities that the voted to be “dry”. Most of those communities have since repealed those laws. I think the state should take the same approach in this case. Let each community decide for itself via popular vote. Not everyone is on the legalization band wagon …. yet.

  3. Weed is not booze. Weed isn’t even aspirin. Coming to grips with these facts will dent profits, I know, but here we are. Nor can weed be regulated as it’s a plant that needs only sunshine, rain, and zero processing other than picking it.

    Anyone wanting to make weed laws ought to begin by smoking a splif.

  4. hsk, is correct. Government works to stifle competition for established businesses. You feed the monkey[politician] and he attacks the new business. I don’t see a case for that dynamic in this instance but the protected business is sometimes not obvious. Money talks in the US political system, and competition, that is the core of capitalism, is stifled by Big Brother.

  5. Almost all prohibition placed in effect by government, even at the lower levels such as municipalities and counties, are put into effect in an attempt to stifle competition by those in existing business that could be affected by the increased competition. It may be hydroponic supply companies coming in that would have an effect on seed and machine companies, each industry being different to it’s effects. It surely isn’t the general welfare issue, because it is impossible to prove that, in this case, marijuana legalization is truly harmful to society. For the first 125 years of our history, marijuana was legal and we were the wealthiest per capital country in the world and the largest creditor nation. Today we are the largest debtor nation and no longer even near the top in wealth concentration within the majority. Knowing that politicians speak with forked tongues, should provide a red flag for any legislation proposed. In this case, we think that the proposed legislation would be good, but be careful, there are likely sinister elements within the proposed legislation that could make it every harder to sue under Constitutional grounds. Good luck to those involved. Don’t give up the fight for your rights to contract and commerce.

  6. Some problems seem to never go away:

    It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is. Those who apply the rule to particular cases, must of necessity expound and interpret that rule. If two laws conflict with each other, the courts must decide on the operation of each.

    (Marbury v Madison, 5 U.S. 137, (1803)).

  7. What does the State Constitution provide with respect to local authority? Is Washington a Dillon Rule state?

  8. Tax/regulate has the same problem as prohibition: big money. The power to tax is the power to destroy. It is a trap. These businesses will have to pay state taxes, but they aren’t allowed to use banks. If they write a check, the Feds will get them for money laundering. If not, tax evasion, which is how they got Capone. It is a wicked web. They need to allow smallscale home production, just like beer & wine, 50gals/yr of each. This would drive prices way down. The only losers would be politicians, who get a har*** at the thought of taxes.

  9. Hmm. DogBiscuitGuy is alluding to something that human guys do on our marina on Sunday. One guys passes a plate around and collects contributions from the boaters who show up on Sunday to boat or hangout. Then the guy gives the proceeds to a woman named Carmen who proceeds to then walk up and down the dock twice in her high heels and bikini. If the guys hoot and holler then they get fined and the money goes to Carmen as well. The dogs can bark but we don’t get fined. Some say that this is somehow immoral. I say it is just pay per view.

  10. We need to examine how Nevada and various towns and counties within Nevada allow or outlaw prostitution and cat houses. It seems to me that the Ninth Amendment would allow an adult women to sell services in her own home without interference from some cops. If it is ok to give these services then why cant she sell them. It is not like she is passing a plate around the congregation in church on Sunday.

  11. “It will also reduce the state’s expectations for revenue generated…”

    And thus we have the rationale for the eventual re-legalization of the “Killer Weed” in all 50 states. All the War on Some Drugs propaganda will soon be a vague memory as local governments see another class of ripe sucks just waiting to be taxed. Strictly business indeed.

  12. While I am concerned about the power of the unelected liquor commission, I do believe the State has the power to preempt the localities.

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