Politics Blog

Local governments differ on approach to new state marijuana outlets

The Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy has compiled a handy survey of Washington state's 75 most populous cities that tells how local officials have responded to the coming start of legal recreational marijuana sales.

The survey found that five percent of cities have approved outright bans of marijuana businesses within their boundaries, while another 45 percent have imposed moratoriums on accepting licenses for pot stores while they study the ramifications. About 1.6 million people are living in the cities with moratoriums or bans in place.

One county -- Pierce -- has also banned marijuana stores in unincorporated areas controlled by county government.

Bellingham had a moratorium in place for a short time, but now is among the 31 percent of cities that have approved zoning ordinances that spell out where the new pot stores may operate.

Another 19 percent of cities have yet to take action.

During a recent visit to Bellingham, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said his office is studying the legal question of whether a city or county can legally refuse to provide an area zoned for these businesses. Some local governments are basing their refusal on the fact that the pot businesses remain illegal under federal law, although federal authorities have said they will not swoop in and shut them down--at least, not right away.

Read the Center's report here. 

Here's a link to an August, 2013 blog post that outlines some of the legal questions arising from the conflict between state and federal law.