Public Safety & Justice

One of Washington's Largest Cities Bans Pot Shops

January 23, 2014
 

Lawmakers in one of the largest cities in Washington state have said no to marijuana businesses, the latest in a series of backlashes by municipalities against a voter-approved recreational pot market in the northwest state.

Washington state and Colorado became the first U.S. states to legalize recreational marijuana use following voter referendums in 2012, capitalizing on rapidly-changing public opinion about the drug, which remains illegal under federal law.

But in a move that regulators said could complicate efforts to root out a black market for marijuana, the Pacific Northwest state's top lawyer said in a formal opinion on January 16 that the marijuana law contains no language precluding local governments from banning pot businesses.

The Yakima City Council on Tuesday voted 6-1 in favor of banning pot growers, processors and retailers from operating within its borders.

Yakima, a city of some 93,000 residents in central Washington state that leans toward conservative politics, is the first municipality to ban pot businesses since Washington state Attorney General Robert Ferguson's opinion.

Yakima joins at least three other Washington state local governments - Pierce County and the cities of Wenatchee and Mossyrock - with similar measures.

More than 20 others have moratoriums to keep such businesses from opening, at least temporarily, according to the Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington.

Although the Justice Department in August gave states new leeway to experiment with legalized marijuana, a move marijuana advocates hailed as an historic shift, the drug remains illegal under federal law. It is largely on those grounds the municipalities have sought to enact bans.

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