WASHINGTON: To Tedd Wetherbee, the vacant storefront seems a suitable spot for selling pot. It’s in a strip mall across from BJ’s Bingo parlor, in a long commercial stretch occupied by fast-food joints, dry cleaners and massage parlors.
But like dozens of other cities in Washington, the small Tacoma suburb of Fife doesn’t want Wetherbee — or anyone else — opening marijuana businesses, even if state law allows it. The arguments officials are making in a lawsuit over the dispute threaten to derail Washington’s big experiment in legal, taxed cannabis less than two months after sales began.
A Pierce County judge on Friday is scheduled to hear arguments on two key issues at the core of Wetherbee’s legal challenge to the ban. The first is whether Washington’s voter-approved marijuana measure, Initiative 502, leaves room for cities to ban licensed pot growers, processors or sellers. If the answer is no, Fife wants the judge to address a second question: Should Washington’s entire legal marijuana scheme be thrown out as incompatible with the federal prohibition on pot?
“It’s challenging the state’s ability to create a legal and controlled market,” said Alison Holcomb, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington lawyer who drafted the law. “They’re saying, ‘We’ll just take the entire regulatory system down.’ “