It’s legal to smoke, grow and sell marijuana in Washington state — or, at least, much of the state. But given 56 percent of voters in 2012 approved Initiative 502, which legalized marijuana, the pot laws should be uniform from Bellingham to Walla Walla.
The marijuana laws are not uniform because local governments — with the blessing of an opinion by the state attorney general — have been opting out of allowing the growing and selling of marijuana. The attorney general said since the law does not specifically ban opting out or local control, cities and counties have been allowed to make their own rules.
The city of Walla Walla has allowed marijuana activities, including the establishment of two retail stores, but the county does not.
As a result, there’s now a legal battle between Walla Walla County and marijuana growers.
A Walla Walla County couple are defying the county’s ban on marijuana operations. Creston Rogerson and Mary Hansen, who operate LaGranja Farms LLC, have filed a Land Use Petition Act in Columbia County Superior Court. The action seeks to halt the shutdown of LaGranja’s marijuana growing operation and the owners being forced to pay thousands of dollars in fines for violating the local ban.
What’s going on here isn’t new. This lawsuit is the sixth court challenge to the authority of local governments to regulate or ban recreational marijuana businesses. In the five previous cases, Superior Court judges have ruled along the lines of the attorney general’s opinion — that nothing in the wording of Initiative 502 prohibits local governments from banning or regulating recreational marijuana operations.
Interestly, most laws don’t specifically prohibit or allow opt-outs. The law is considered to be the law for everyone.
A patchwork of pot laws makes no sense. Nor does it serve the public’s best interests.
When the legalization of recreational marijuana was pitched to voters in 2012, the goal, as explained by its proponents, was to reduce crime associated with the illegal marijuana trade.
Recent studies are showing the approach is working as more states, such as Oregon, join Washington and Colorado in legalizing marijuana. The price of recreational marijuana, even with state taxes added, is lower than street prices and cutting some of the criminal element out of the action.
It’s taken a bite out of the drugal cartels and expensive prison sentence for marijuana users have vanished. The Legislature needs to step in to bring statewide uniformity to the law.
This newspaper did not endorse f I-502. The legalization of pot conflicts with federal law and did not seem to be thoroughly thought out, which has proven to be the case. Nevertheless, it is what a solid majority of Washingtonians support.
The state, through the Legislature, has an obligation to fine-tune the voter-approved law to make it work as the voters anticipated.