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Conservatives Push Back on Legal Pot

In a fascinating strategy flip, conservative areas of Washington state are attempting to circumvent the new marijuana law. The statewide initiative made possession and sale of weed a regulated, but permitted activity in our state. One pre-legalization strategy used by pro-pot advocates is now being adopted by conservatives.

Before pot was legalized statewide, localities that supported legalization were able to pass ordinances to make it easier for cannabis users to enjoy their drug. These local laws reduced penalties for possession or instructed police to focus on other types of crimes – essentially decriminalizing marijuana on local government authority. Now, however, areas that lean conservative intend to use local laws to make it harder to sell or use weed in their cities.

In particular, a report in the Seattle Times says Yakima is attempting to “opt out” of the law. Although they wouldn’t have the power to make cannabis illegal in their jurisdiction, local ordinances can set zoning policies so that retail outlets might be banned. And, in a move similar to what has been used for smoking tobacco, smoking marijuana could also be restricted in any areas under local government control.

Late last month, the City Council voted 4-3 and instructed the city attorney to create an ordinance which would effectively ban the retail sale of weed within city limits, as well as preventing growing or processing of the drug. According to the Times, “The city also has imposed a six-month moratorium for such businesses, although none are expected to open in the state until May or June at the earliest.”

This case will be watched closely, as both state legal authorities and the Liquor Control Board (the regulatory body for cannabis) weigh in. Other cities will be guided by what happens in Yakima and we may end up with a patchwork of laws that reflect local sympathies, either for or against pot.

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