Court rules County moratorium does not violate state constitution
CLARK COUNTY – The Washington State court of appeals has unanimously sided with Clark County, and against the owner of a pot shop in Hazel Dell. John Larson, owner of Emerald Enterprises, which runs Sticky’s Pot Shop on Highway 99, has argued the county’s marijuana ban runs afoul of the state constitution, because it prohibits something allowed by state law.
The Appeals Court disagreed, ruling that Initiative 502, approved by voters in 2012, does make recreational marijuana legal, but it did not require local municipalities to allow them. The law, and amendments later approved by the legislature, allows local governments to set a maximum number of licensed marijuana retailers, but not a minimum number.
The court also ruled that state law gives local jurisdictions broad power when it comes to enforcing their own laws, assuming those laws don’t directly conflict with state law. Their decision states that, while recreational marijuana sales are legal under state law, they are not mandatory.
A 2014 opinion by state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, while not binding, stated that local bans were allowed under the law. Currently six counties and 30 cities in Washington State have banned marijuana-related businesses. The Legislature did pass an amendment stating that any municipality banning marijuana would forfeit any tax revenue generated.
Sticky’s has been operating in violation of the county ban since Clark County Superior Court judge Daniel Stahnke allowed Larson to post a $205,000 bond to cover existing county fines, and those they would accrue during their legal challenge. It’s expected the business will be able to continue operating while the Appeals Court ruling is brought to the state Supreme Court.
Clark County Council recently debated the issue of whether to hold hearings about possibly ending the marijuana moratorium, but decided to hold off after hearing from a number of groups opposed to the idea. You can read more about that here: