Commentary by Shelby Sebens, who can be contacted at Shelby@NorthwestWatchdog.org.
Marijuana moratoriums appear to be the new bureaucratic move for cities uncomfortable with laws legalizing cannabis.
A growing number of Washington state cities are adopting moratoriums on legal weed sales as the Washington State Liquor Control Board carves out regulations and red tape around the industry. Despite 56 percent of voters approving legal weed in Washington in November, several cities are not eager for the new market to get moving.
Several cities, including the state capital of Olympia, have already enacted marijuana moratoriums, as others are considering them. Apparently, cities need more time to add regulations and zoning to the new marijuana laws.
“I’m not looking to limit access to medical marijuana for those patients who need it. However, collective gardens are new under the law,” Kent Council President Jamie Perry said in a press release. “This moratorium allows us the time to plan and zone for them before the law goes into effect. We need to do this right.”
But fear not, cannabis defenders, communities cannot ignore I-502 and the will of the voters indefinitely.
“There’s nothing in I-502 that allows a community to opt out,” Washington state Liquor Control Board spokesman Brian Smith said. If a marijuana retailer meets the state’s requirement for a license then it will be granted.
But, there’s a catch. They will also have to comply with local zoning codes and regulations, leaving the door open to miles of red tape and trouble for the newly emerging industry. That could lead to lawsuits and the continued dominance of the black market.
“There could be friction there going forward,” Smith said. “No one wants to see litigation.”
The liquor control board filed updated rule revisions to the law and is expected to finalize them by December. Smith said the moratoriums are understandable given the time it’s taking the state to regulate the industry.
“Many of them are taking a look and see what our rules look like and that’s appropriate,” he said.
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