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WA Attorney General Jumps into Pot Lawsuits

Fife, Wenatchee being sued over pot bans
(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Fife and Wenatchee are being sued by perspective marijuana growers and sellers, and the State Attorney General appears to be possibly taking the side of the cities.

Earlier this year, AG Bob Ferguson offered a non-legally binding opinion about whether cities and counties could, within their own boundaries,  ban pot growing and sales.   Based upon the language in I-502,  Ferguson said in his opinion,  such bans WOULD stand up in court.

  Now that Fife and Wenatchee, WA are being sued,  Ferguson has entered these lawsuits, but according to his office, it is to uphold the letter of the law in I-502.   Ferguson says he’s not taking the side of the plaintiff or cities. According to a release issued by the AG office:

“As attorney general, my job is to make sure the will of the people is upheld,” said Ferguson. “If any party to these lawsuits seeks to overturn state laws, my office will be there to defend the law.”

The AGO is authorized by law to intervene in a lawsuit to protect the interests of the people of the state. Intervention means the AGO would become a party to each lawsuit and be able to participate fully in briefings, hearings and trial. The AGO often intervenes, for example, in environmental and consumer protection cases.”

However, some groups say because his initial opinion seemed to side with cities and counties, they are interpreting this as leaning to the side of the municipalities who are seeking (or have already) to ban pot growing and sales.

According to the website The Kent (WA) Reporter:

“Evaluating the claims in the Wenatchee and Fife lawsuits will require the courts to interpret I-502 and determine whether, under the initiative and the Washington Constitution, state law preempts local authority to legislate on this subject.

A formal opinion released by the AGO in January concluded that, as drafted, I-502 does not prevent cities and counties from banning marijuana businesses.”

Both cities passed official ordinances banning essentially all forms of the marijuana industry, and two businesses are seeking to have them overturned so they can open pot stores.


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