Washington State Lawsuit Could Overturn Cannabis Business Bans


Moratoriums and bans on cannabis businesses are nothing new. For instance, bans and moratoriums have been in place for many years now in parts of California. Those bans, and others like them in other states, were put in place to limit the spread of medical cannabis businesses. After Colorado and Washington voted to legalize recreational sales, cities and counties started to use the same tactic to slow down the spread of recreational cannabis.

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One of those cities in Washington was the City of Wenatchee. Last October the City of Wenatchee voted to ban cannabis businesses. The reasoning behind the ban was that cannabis is illegal federally, so therefore it's illegal locally too. A lawsuit was filed recently challenging that reasoning. Bans themselves, cannabis or otherwise, are not unconstitutional necessarily. However, counties and cities are the creation of the State, not the feds, which means enforcing federal law is not within local municipality's jurisdictions.

Per Al Jazeera America:

"Bricken said that despite what federal law says, no city can regulate outside the confines of state law. And the debate gets to the heart of the issue of whether city bans of marijuana are actually legal under Washington's voter-approved law.

"Our position is you can't pick and choose the state laws you want to enforce," Bricken said. "This is a people's initiative. That means something, and that should be honored. You can't just opt out because you want to hide your head in the sand because of federal prohibition.""

If this lawsuit is successful, it would not overturn every cannabis ban in Washington and beyond. It would only apply to those bans that were based on similar logic that relied upon federal law. Cities and counties that had their bans overturned could turn around and put new bans in place based upon better reasoning. But they would also have to go through the process all over again, starting from scratch.

It's still significant, as the litigation that is about to ensue could serve as a warning to other areas that have bans. Litigation is going to be very expensive. So expensive that some may not feel their bans are worth it. I'm hopeful that's the case. Bans and moratoriums are a ridiculous attempt to cling to failed policies.