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More than 300 city officials gather in Olympia to advocate for shared state marijuana revenues

Olympia – On Wednesday and Thursday, more than 300 city officials will gather at the Olympia Red Lion Hotel and the state capitol campus for the annual City Action Days conference. While in town, they are asking the state legislature to support a number of city legislative priorities – one of which is sharing of marijuana revenues and preservation of local authority.

“More than 50 percent of the licensed 334 marijuana retail stores will be located in cities,” says Francis Benjamin, AWC president of the board of directors and City of Pullman councilmember. “Cities must have resources to fund critical public safety and criminal justice programs, and maintain regulatory authority over marijuana businesses.”

The Association of Washington Cities, representing Washington’s 281 cities and towns before the state legislature, has put forth a three-pronged legislative priority: 1) share revenue to support local enforcement prevention; 2) preserve local authority over marijuana-related businesses; and 3) reconcile the regulation of medical and recreational marijuana.

Candice Bock, AWC government relations advocate, says cities want the state to share a portion of the excise tax on recreational marijuana. The organization favors senate bill 5417, which would grant revenue sharing from marijuana sales, distributing 33 percent to cities and counties that have not banned the siting or operation of state licensed marijuana producers, processors or retailers.

“Unless local governments receive resources from state marijuana revenue, there will continue to be a giant hole in our regulatory system,” says Olympia mayor, Stephen Buxbaum.

Ron Harding, mayor of Yelm, agrees. “Lawmakers and the public realize that regardless of where marijuana stores are located, the impacts will affect all of our communities. It would be naive to think that this product will not find its way into every community across our state.”

Harding says cities must be prepared to mitigate any negative effects associated with the new marijuana industry. “We need resources and the ability for local control to direct continuity within our unique communities, and to balance the desires and needs of Washington state residents.”

AWC also supports legislation that provides clarity to law enforcement and meets the federal mandate for a tightly-regulated marijuana system, while preserving patient access.

Buxbaum points out that local governments bear the burden of licensing, inspecting and policing activities related to both medical and recreational marijuana businesses. “We need the legislature’s help to provide both resources to meet our regulatory obligations and to bring clarity to the medical and recreational systems.”

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