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Seattle Times coverage of pot policy, culture and lifestyle.

August 19, 2014 at 2:44 PM

State Attorney General outlines argument in case that could make or break pot law

The State Attorney General’s office outlined its argument Monday in a court case that could make or break Washington’s marijuana law.

In July, the city of Fife approved an outright ban on marijuana businesses. A prospective pot store is suing the city in Pierce County Superior Court and hopes to overturn the ban.

The case could cement Washington’s pot law or unravel it, depending on the success of arguments from the State Attorney General’s office and the ACLU, who have both intervened in the lawsuit.

There are two key issues in the case: whether Fife and other municipalities are allowed to ban marijuana businesses under Initiative 502, the state law that legalized pot, and whether federal law banning pot trumps state law on the issue.

The ACLU and State Attorney General’s office agree on the second point: Federal law does not supersede state law in this case, they say. In fact, the State Attorney General’s office intervened in the case because it’s concerned Washington’s legal pot system would be invalidated if Fife wins with the federal preemption argument.

The ACLU and State Attorney General’s office digress on the other key argument. The State Attorney General’s office believes I-502, as written, allows cities and counties to bar marijuana businesses.

“I-502 is silent … as to its impact on the broad, preexisting authority of local governments,” wrote the Attorney General’s office in its brief to the court. “The Attorney General respectfully requests that this Court grant summary judgment upholding Fife’s action as within the City’s legal power.”

The ACLU disagrees that Fife has the power to ban pot businesses.

“Federal law does not preempt our state’s marijuana law, nor can individual cities opt of out of state law,” said ACLU lawyer Alison Holcomb in a news release earlier this month. Holcomb was the architect of I-502 and managed the campaign that won voters’ approval in 2012. “Our state’s law is consistent with federal law enforcement priorities.”

The court will hear first arguments in the case on Aug. 29.

Some court documents:

The lawsuit

Fife’s response

Comments | More in News | Topics: aclu, Alison Holcomb, bob ferguson


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