Washington City Dispensary Ban Lawsuit Threatens to Derail State Legalization

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Today on the West Coast, a judge will hear the opening arguments in a case that could undo the progress made in Washington state regarding cannabis policy.

Fife, located in Pierce County, Washington, is one of many municipalities which is trying to prohibit the development of legal cannabis-related businesses (particularly retail dispensaries). Tedd Wetherbee has filed a lawsuit challenging the ban, because he wants to open a retail recreational dispensary, but isn’t being allowed to do so, despite the legalization of such businesses in the state.

Today, a judge will be hearing arguments in the lawsuit. Wetherbee is challenging not just the local ban but possibly the entire state regulatory system . The judge will have to determine whether the language of Initiative 502 allows for municipalities to ban licensed growers, processors, or sellers and if Initiative 502 does not allow for those bans, whether or not the entire new legal cannabis program associated with Initiative 502 will have to be ruled invalid due to the incompatibility with federal cannabis prohibition.

The ACLU has filed a brief with the court in support of the lawsuit, pointing out that while Washington state law permits townships to ban the sale of alcohol, nothing in Initiative 502 extended those abilities to include cannabis.

Despite the fact that 53% of residents of Fife supported the legalization measure, the town is still planning to fight for its right to ban cannabis businesses, which some experts believe may imperil the entire fledgling program.

Update: A judge has upheld the ban on cannabis businesses in Fife, Washington. Advocates believe the case will wind up in the State Supreme Court.

For previous Ladybud coverage of cannabis-law related lawsuits, click here.


Photo Credit:  Laurie Avocado under [CC-BY-2.0] via Wikimedia Commons