We are already seeing local regulatory reactions to I-502. With the exception of Cheney and Medical Lake, to the best of our knowledge, no Washington cities have yet to ban retail marijuana sales.
There has been little to no uniformity regarding MMJ local legislation, enforcement, or laws because Washington state’s medical cannabis laws fell victim to an aggressive line item veto by outgoing Governor Christine Gregoire. As a result, it has been every city for itself when it came to the treatment of medical cannabis. Though various MMJ stakeholders have sued cities for their medical cannabis bans, it remains unclear whether medical cannabis patients can specifically run MMJ storefronts under Washington State laws.
We expect greater clarity when it comes to adult use marijuana under I-502 for the following reasons:
1. I-502 is more clearly written than current MMJ laws, making compliance and enforcement efforts easier on licensees and local administrators;
2. The State Legislature cannot change I-502 for two years; and
3. I-502 doesn’t give as much regulatory authority to the cities as current MMJ laws; current MMJ laws allow cities to regulate medical cannabis for local business licensing, zoning, and health and safety requirements and many cities have chosen to refuse business licenses to MMJ entities by claiming health and safety concerns or Federal law restrictions. I-502 only allows cities to object to prospective licensees “for cause,” and the Liquor Control Board (LCB) appears to have the authority to ignore those objections anyway.
So, what exactly are we seeing as cities rev up for I-502? A mixed bag, that’s what. While Seattle prepares to zone its districts for medical cannabis use, we do not yet know whether these zoning rules will also apply to I-502 facilities. Compare that with the City of Everett who recently passed a pretty aggressive nuisance ordinance, declaring that cannabis use, itself, is a nuisance. Notably, Everett’s nuisance ordinance will be in effect for 18 months with the city remaining mum on how it will handle I-502. Tacoma also recently passed a nuisance ordinance aimed at MMJ storefronts and has not commented on it how it will treat I-502 either.
Most worrisome though for the MMJ community is another kind of conversation about cannabis that’s taking place in Monroe, Washington, where the city is essentially seeking to ban medical cannabis while at the same time allowing for I-502 facilities when recreational licenses begin to issue. Monroe seems to be setting the stage for war between medicinal and recreational cannabis businesses. If MMJ regulations like those proposed in Monroe take effect elsewhere, cannabis businesses will likely need to choose between recreational or adult use marijuana on the one hand and medical cannabis on the other.