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Published on Friday, August 8, 2014

AG Intervenes in Marijuana Lawsuits

Everyone knew that at some point there would be legal challenges in regard to the legalization of marijuana. This summer those expected challenges have begun. Wenatchee and Fife have both been challenged over adoption of bans, Chehalis is being challenged over its moratorium, and other lawsuits are likely to continue to show up around the state.

Most recently the Attorney General (AG) has opted to weigh-in on these local lawsuits. In response to questions from the Liquor Control Board, Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued a formal opinion in January that reaffirmed cities local authority to zone and regulate marijuana businesses. However, as the State’s attorney, the AG also has the job of defending state law. In that role, the AG has opted to intervene in lawsuits in Wenatchee and Fife where the AG believes that the legality of I-502 is being questioned. In these lawsuits, the AG is concerned the cities will argue federal law preempts I-502, which could threaten the legality of the recreational marijuana industry in Washington. The AG is not challenging cities’ ability to zone and regulate the businesses, only the potential threat to I-502. The first arguments in the Fife case are set for later this month. We will continue to watch these developments closely and share information as it is available.

MRSC has been collecting information about what actions cities are taking – bans, zoning, and moratoria. They have great information on their website for those who are interested in seeing what other jurisdictions are doing.