City of Wenatchee, Washington Reverses Course, Votes In Moratorium Banning Retail Marijuana Businesses

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Entreating the GodfatherWe have previously described events happening at city hall in Wenatchee, Washington regarding the city exercising control over the marijuana business legalized in the state.  HERE and HERE The Washington State Liquor Control Board sold the licensing rights to Wenatchee to SMP Retail, LLC.  The city then prohibited the business from opening its doors despite having progressed through the build-out of the business as required by the Liquor Control Board to complete the operating permit.  The city council claimed it did not want to grant business licenses to those that “violated federal laws”.  Despite the assurances proffered by the U.S. Justice Department that the federal government would not prosecute state licensed marijuana businesses, the city held fast and elicited the lawsuit.  SMP Retail sued the City of Wenatchee in Chelan County Superior Court.

City of Wenatchee LogoIt seemed likely in a subsequent council meeting the city would reverse course on its ban as it had previously directed the city attorney to draft an ordinance removing the federal compliance requirement and allow by default the state licensed marijuana businesses to set up shop.  Now it is back to prohibition.

The city council voted to impose a six month moratorium on allowing licensed retailers from operating legally within the city.  The council also tabled indefinitely a proposal to amend its business license law to no longer require businesses to comply with federal laws. The amendment — proposed two weeks ago by Councilwoman Karen Rutherford — would have allowed marijuana businesses within the city.

reefer-madness-smoke-colorCouncilman Bryan Campbell said: “We really need to vet out all the different issues. I don’t want to go in one direction without enough knowledge and realize that we made a mistake.”

City Attorney Steve Smith commented: “We really, as a city, haven’t spent any time formally developing regulations or reviewing our regulations.  The reason you do a moratorium … is so that you can buy yourself some time to study that and not have to deal with applications in the interim.”

One could retort the city had time since the fall of last year when it legislated state licensed marijuana businesses out of the city, but it in all likelihood changed its approach when it found itself sued in Superior Court over the matter.

Coincidentally, during the same council meeting, the city attorney announced a settlement with Global Entertainment of Arizona over the Town Toyota stadium debacle that came distressingly close to bankrupting the city.  The settlement amounted to a million dollars of which after legal costs the city would split five hundred and ninety thousand with the Greater Wenatchee Regional Events Center Public Facilities District, which owns the arena.

One has to wonder if any of the money from the proceeds from the stadium lawsuit or the fact the law firm of the City Attorney proffered it would represent the city free of charge had anything to do with swaying the council to impose the marijuana moratorium.

As mentioned in a previous article the American Civil Liberties Union agreed to assist in the case on the side of marijuana retailer SMP Retail against the city, vowing to take the issue to the Supreme Court.  How “free” of cost by the law firm’s offer this will represent to the city if the case goes that far hopefully will be factored in for future retainer costs.

The state already restrains marijuana retailers by significant regulation as to location and other issues the city could adopt by reference.  But, instead, a few words of an ordinance must be maintained guaranteeing a lawsuit against the city that someone is going to have to pay for. And, that it could ultimately lose along with  tax revenue and distractions from other important issues.

reefer-madness-shockingYet, during the council meeting an amount of irony surely could have been recognized between the past stadium lawsuit and the present marijuana one; as Councilman Jim Bailey expressed: “Originally, we just wanted to be done with all this. [The Stadium Debacle] But on second thought, we saw an opportunity that there might be a few dollars out there. We were able to do that without costing us an arm and a leg. I think we have covered our due diligence in looking after taxpayer dollars.”

All cities in Chelan County: Wenatchee; Cashmere; Leavenworth; and Chelan, have either banned legal and licensed marijuana retailers or imposed prohibition by moratorium.  Consumers now must travel to other counties it seems to buy legal weed or perhaps continue to purchase it from the alley behind a tavern or from a salesman with the South Side Locos, or the Colonia Chiques franchisees of Mara Salvatrucha.

It seems issuing a business permit to a state licensed retailer presents too many problems for the City Council of Wenatchee.

By Darren Smith

Sources:

Wenatchee World
City of Wenatchee

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.

34 thoughts on “City of Wenatchee, Washington Reverses Course, Votes In Moratorium Banning Retail Marijuana Businesses”

  1. Had they been a conservative state, I doubt they would receive the same support. (At least not from one of our Guest Bloggers.)
    =======================================

    Darren

    looks like you’ve been labeled a librul by a true mericun.

    ya durn pinko 🙂

  2. Dredd wrote “WASHINGTON CONSTITUTION … All political power is inherent in the people … [the people passed the law legalizing marijuana] … consistent with and subject to the Constitution and laws of this state”

    This is not an attack on Dredd, but on the inconsistency of arguments here regarding the Constitution.

    The U.S. is not a democracy; it is a constitutional republic. The people in a state can vote that all people named Dredd are to be executed, but the Constitution prevents that. However, it does that via governmental interference from the point of view of some people. This point seems to be lost on Jim22, John, and the others who constantly claim that the documents of the Founding Fathers are to be respected with no leeway. Someone must interpret the Constitution. The Founding Fathers gave that power to SCOTUS (yes, I know about Marbury v. Madison). Government does indeed have the right to interfere in the voters’ decision to legalize marijuana on constitutional grounds and only the courts can change that. And unfortunately the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the later Amendments were not always models of clarity, with the 2nd Amendment (seriously ambiguous) and the 14th Amendment (introduced baby-citizenship tourism) being the best examples.

    There are countries which have voter referendums which are not under the thumb of pesky constitutions. Switzerland is the best example. Swiss voters have the power to vote on national issues, e.g. immigration, as well as local issues. The fears that liberals have that the unwashed masses will vote for pogroms are unfounded, but then again, the Swiss are a tight-knit community, very much unlike the U.S. Switzerland is a true democracy, but they make it work very well.

  3. Darren,

    WordMess is acting like Wenatchee, and is violating comments.

    One message rejected based on federal law.

    Please retrieve.

  4. Jack

    The only way for the State of Washington to win this is to challenge the constitutionality of the federal statutes relating to marijuana. After all, we do have a Supremacy Clause in our Constitution.

    ===========================
    Washington state has a supremacy clause too (the state is supreme over counties and cities.)

    We won’t have to wait long on this one … motion on the pleadings or summary judgment will resolve it.

    No disputed material facts here.

    Judgment as a matter of state law over city ordinances.
    *******************************************
    WASHINGTON CONSTITUTION
    *******************************************
    SECTION 1 POLITICAL POWER. All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights. [the people passed the law legalizing marijuana]

    SECTION 10 INCORPORATION OF MUNICIPALITIES.

    cities or towns heretofore or hereafter organized, and all charters thereof framed or adopted by authority of this Constitution shall be subject to and controlled by general laws. Any city containing a population of ten thousand inhabitants, or more, shall be permitted to frame a charter for its own government, consistent with and subject to the Constitution and laws of this state… ************************************
    WASHINGTON Marijuana laws
    ************************************
    State preemption

    The state of Washington fully occupies and preempts the entire field of setting penalties for violations of the controlled substances act. Cities, towns, and counties or other municipalities may enact only those laws and ordinances relating to controlled substances that are consistent with this chapter. Such local ordinances shall have the same penalties as provided for by state law. Local laws and ordinances that are inconsistent with the requirements of state law shall not be enacted and are preempted and repealed, regardless of the nature of the code, charter, or home rule status of the city, town, county, or municipality.
    ——————————————-
    Conclusion.

    The cities have no authority to form any law contrary to the laws of the state, which now includes marijuana laws.

    1. Dredd, I retrieved your comment at 6:47. Yeah, WordPress seems to be a Wenatchite as of late.

  5. John
    Who ‘invented’ cannabis?
    Man or God? But is cannabis in the 11th Commandment:
    Smoke ’em if you have ’em?

  6. Funny place. You make a law against a substance, not the behavior of an individual.

    Not so funny. You make a law against a fetus, not the behavior of the mother.

    Bizarre. You make a law compelling love and precluding discrimination and hate, not behavior.

    That dudn’t make any sense.

    I think I stick with the Ten Commandments and leave it at that.

    No “amendments” there. No nullification there. What did Madison say, that he feared further amendment would destroy the Constitution?

    No tyrannical, authoritarian Supreme Court has ever “interpreted” and corrupted the Ten Commandments. I guess they figured it was impossible to “legislate from the bench” next to God.

    Holy geez! That would be scary. You can nullify the Preamble, Constitution and Bill of Rights and usurp power, but you damn sure better not try that with God.

    Alcohol, aspirin, acetaminophen, naproxen sodium, brompheniramine, caffeine, chlorpheniramine, dextromethorphan, orlistat, nicotine, tobacco, guaifenesin, ibuprofen, pseudoephedrine, phentermine and topiramate etc., etc. are all legal.

    Making law against substances is irrational. It does not stop usage.

    Regulate the behavior of the individual, not the substance.

  7. The city isn’t ignoring state law. It is simply enforcing its own ordinance by not issuing a business license. The state statute does not require the issuance of such a license. The business could file a declaratory relief action asserting that state law pre-empts the city business license requirement, or open and then argue the local business license law does not apply if cited.

  8. Jack wrote “challenge the constitutionality of the federal statutes relating to marijuana”

    One thing I will never understand is how we accepted that marijuana was illegal in the first place. To ban alcohol, we knew we needed the 18th Amendment in 1919. And when we realized that was a really stupid idea, we repealed it via the 21th Amendment in 1933. And then fours years later we banned marijuana and fine-tuned the laws in 1970.

    I’ll never forget the scene in “Reefer Madness” when one of the characters implores someone playing the piano — “Play faster! Play faster!” — all the while puffing on his doobie.

  9. Jack, Great comment and link. I took the time to read the hypocrisy on that thread and chuckled. It was only 9 or so months ago but it seems like 9 years!

  10. The only way for the State of Washington to win this is to challenge the constitutionality of the federal statutes relating to marijuana. After all, we do have a Supremacy Clause in our Constitution.

    Would a constitutional challenge be based on the federal government exceeding their Article I authority. Or would it be that marijuana laws should have been left to the states to begin with (Tenth Amendment)?

    What the State of Washington has done is an attempt to nullify federal law. Had they been a conservative state, I doubt they would receive the same support. (At least not from one of our Guest Bloggers.)
    http://jonathanturley.org/2013/09/08/nullification-missouri-style/

  11. The “government” doesn’t waste their money. They waste “TAXPAYERS” money. That is the fundamental problem w/ government, they get to tax and waste w/ impunity. Few do it “better” than Chicago.

  12. Don’t we still have the same problem with the city trying to undo state law? The state wins this and the city is going to waste more money and time.

  13. A citizen of the city could sue to enforce the federal law. So if the city failed to “abide by” the federal law and some citizen was injured by say a drunk pot smoker who just buzzed up from the product from the store, then the city could be liable for the civil action. I would go further and sue to revoke the license as a citizen of the town on the grounds that it was illegally issued.

  14. Colorado has shown the country the way forward. The state of Washington is showing us the usual corrupt, incompetent methods of the past. Here’s a clue, Washington and the others: just copy Colorado law. Federal agents are leaving us alone.

    The next presidential campaign will be very important for Colorado. Much of the state will vote for the candidate who states that he/she will continue non-interference. There is a lot of revenue at stake, and interference would drive Colorado into recession.

  15. have the feds sued the cities in cali that licensed marijuana dispensaries there that they’ve shut down?
    it would seem to me that if the feds change their minds about enforcement they would go after the businesses themselves not the cities. with that many dea and fbi agents in town the local coffee and donut shops would have record sales.

    win win for the city

  16. You are on the losing side again:

    State preemption

    The state of Washington fully occupies and preempts the entire field of setting penalties for violations of the controlled substances act. Cities, towns, and counties or other municipalities may enact only those laws and ordinances relating to controlled substances that are consistent with this chapter. Such local ordinances shall have the same penalties as provided for by state law. Local laws and ordinances that are inconsistent with the requirements of state law shall not be enacted and are preempted and repealed, regardless of the nature of the code, charter, or home rule status of the city, town, county, or municipality.

    (RCW 69.50.608).

  17. I am going with the City on this one. The Feds do not keep their word, so the City cannot rely on what the Feds say. They are not exactly God’s gift to veracity these days. They are taking the safe course.

Comments are closed.