UPDATE: The Washington Attorney General on Thursday said cities and counties can block licensed marijuana businesses from operating. Read more
Original story below.
VANCOUVER, Wash. -- Legal marijuana in Washington may not be all that legal after all, depending on where you are within the state.
Clark County is just one of dozens of counties and cities trying to stop the new, voter-approved state law from starting.
“I still have the federal laws to uphold, I took that oath,” said Clark County Commissioner Tom Mielke, who expects to extend the county's current moratorium on marijuana another six months in February.
Now, state lawmakers are fighting back against that action. A House bill proposed this week would penalize cities and counties who try to ban or restrict the pot business. Under the bill, local governments could lose liquor revenue from the state or face legal action if they don’t cooperate with state regulators.
“I feel like they're still dumping on me,” said Mielke. “It's so unfair when they should be lobbying the federal government to accept what the state of Washington wants to do. Don't put me in the middle of it.”
The Washington Liquor Control Board is moving forward. It’s already processed more than 7,000 marijuana business applications and still has more to go through.
Bobby Saberi, who owns the paraphernalia shop Mary Jane’s House of Glass in Vancouver, said it’s a tough spot to be in. He understands cities and counties have a lot to sort out, but he also wants them to know there’s a lot at stake for a lot of people.
“It is frustrating from an entrepreneur standpoint,” Saberi said. “So many expenses go into getting a lease from a landlord. How long do you keep that property off the market? Space is so limited already with properties that qualify.”
While Commissioner Mielke admits it’s been unfair to those business license applicants, he also said, “I’m not going to go to jail for them.”
The Washington Liquor Control Board has asked the attorney general for a formal opinion, which is expected to be released at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.