Washington state’s voters approved the legalization of marijuana last year, but a large number of city officials have not embraced the concept.
That’s unfortunate. Public servants have a duty to follow the law even if they don’t agree with it.
When the legalization of pot, Initiative 105, was on the ballot in the fall of 2012, we urged voters to reject it. We simply did not envision many, if any, positives coming from an increased use of marijuana in this state.
Statewide, the voters saw it differently. It’s now the law and sales are supposed to start later this year.
But only about a third of the state’s most populous cities (and this includes Walla Walla) are preparing to implement the law. The others are stalling or trying to impose a ban on pot.
That’s one of the findings of a new Seattle-based marijuana think tank — the Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy — researching implementation of the pot law.
The study looked at how the 75 most populous cities are handling the mandates of Initiative 502. The survey found four cities — Lakewood, Wenatchee, SeaTac, Lakewood and Kent — have effectively banned pot until it is legal under federal law. This ban impacts about 5 percent of the state’s population. Thirty-five cities have imposed a moratorium for six months to a year. And 14 cities have done zip.
Drew Matthews, a researcher with the cannabis think tank, said it appears the various approaches are being taken for a variety of reasons.
“There are a lot of cities that really do want to make this work and feel overwhelmed by the prospect of implementing it, while others are really just trying to play out the clock, so to speak, and keep passing moratoriums until the problem goes away and people stop applying in their jurisdiction,” Matthews said.
Yet, 22 cities are moving forward, approving the zoning laws necessary to regulate the production and sale of legal marijuana.
That’s what has to be done across the state. Political and personal views by elected officials (or citizens) on marijuana use and legalization are no longer relevant.
Last year, Brian E. Smith, director of communications for the state Liquor Control Board, the agency in charge of regulating pot, said there is nothing in I-502 that allows a community or jurisdiction to opt out. The new marijuana law in Colorado, where sales have begun, does have an opt-out option.
Officials who don’t want to allow pot sales should lobby the Washington Legislature to adopt Colorado’s approach.
But until that happens, they have no choice but to adopt the necessary regulations so the growing and selling of marijuana can proceed.