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Published on Friday, January 17, 2014

New developments in marijuana

There have been several new developments this week related to marijuana including new legislative proposals and an Attorney General Opinion.

This week, the House Health Care and Wellness Committee heard HB 2149 which implements many changes to medical marijuana to better align it with recreational marijuana. AWC testified in support of the proposal.

Next week, two more bills will be heard in the Senate Health Care Committee on January 21 at 10 am, both of which address aligning the medical and recreational markets. SB 5887 is offered by Sen. Rivers (R-Vancouver) and SB 6178 is sponsored by Sen. Kohl-Welles (D-Seattle). It is likely that a substitute version of SB 5887 will be heard, but isn’t yet available at the time of this post.

Also introduced this week was HB 2322 by Rep. Sawyer (D-Tacoma) which would prohibit cities and counties from taking action to ban marijuana businesses. The bill would penalize a jurisdiction by eliminating liquor revenue distributions. The proposal raises some significant questions for local jurisdictions. It has not yet been scheduled for public hearing.

On Jan 16, the Attorney General released his formal opinion in response to the Liquor Control Board’s (LCB) questions about city authority over the siting of marijuana business. The LCB asked if cities could ban such businesses or adopt regulations that could make it impractical for a business to locate. The Attorney General found that nothing in I-502 limited cities’ authority and affirmed that cities retain local land use and licensing authority. While this is a welcome affirmation of cities’ local authority, it does not necessarily provide final resolution to the issue. It remains likely that members of the marijuana industry will still challenge such bans and regulations in court. It also is possible that the legislature will try to take action to limit cities authority through HB 2322 or a similar proposal in response to this opinion. We will continue to watch for these developments and share information with cities.

Finally, cities must continue to be vocal about the need for the State to address the impacts on cities from marijuana legalization by providing a share of the excise tax revenue to local governments. It is important that they hear from city officials about the local impacts and the need for additional revenue. The State needs to take this action before the market is operational so that resources are in place when sales begin.