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Attorney General Ferguson feels that Initiative 502 does not prevent cities and counties from banning marijuana businesses
In response to a request from Sharon Foster, chair of the Washington State Liquor Control Board, Attorney General Bob Ferguson today released a formal opinion regarding local ordinances affecting new marijuana businesses in Washington.
The formal opinion concludes Initiative 502 as drafted and presented to the voters does not prevent local governments from regulating or banning marijuana businesses in their jurisdictions:
“Under Washington law, there is a strong presumption against finding that state law preempts local ordinances. 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.”
Foster then issued the following statement regarding Ferguson's formal opinion concerning marijuana businesses:
“On behalf of my fellow board members, I would like to thank Attorney General Ferguson for providing a thorough legal analysis of our request as to whether a local government could formally or effectively ban a marijuana business from its jurisdiction. The formal opinion indicates that they have the ability to do so.
"The legal opinion will be a disappointment to the majority of Washington’s voters who approved Initiative 502. We’re not yet sure how this opinion will change the implementation of the initiative. 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.
"The Board will be discussing next steps. We have already been working with local governments, legislators and the governor’s office on this issue and will continue to do so. As we have throughout this process, we will clearly communicate our intentions along the way.”