County Executive McCarthy Vetoes Pierce County Council Prohibition On Marijuana Businesses

WASHINGTON:  Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy has vetoed the County Council’s ordinance that prohibits licensed marijuana businesses from operating until the U.S. Congress removes marijuana from the list of federally controlled substances.

McCarthy said the county’s ordinance conflicts with state law. She said the county must comply with state law, which permits the licensing of marijuana businesses.

In a letter to the council released Monday, McCarthy said she has concerns about legal risks the council’s ordinance poses regarding “federal authorization.” She urged the council to “approve clear and well-defined zoning regulations that protect our neighborhoods.”

“Yes, the state law is in conflict with federal law, but the U.S. Department of Justice in August announced it is not going to challenge the state law at this time,” McCarthy said. “The county is an entity of the state, and we cannot pass an ordinance that is in conflict with the state.”

Council Chairwoman Joyce McDonald, R-Puyallup, said Monday the council will vote on Dec. 10 whether to overturn McCarthy’s veto.

An override requires five of seven council votes.

McDonald said the decision whether to legalize marijuana needs to be made at the federal level. McDonald said she supports an override.

“Her concern is mostly about litigation,” McDonald said. “I understand her concerns but I don’t think we can overlook lightly federal law.”

The council adopted the ordinance Nov. 5 by a vote of 4-3.

McDonald said she’s not certain there will be five votes to support an override. The vote is scheduled for Dec. 10 so that a decision would take effect by the time the council’s current moratorium on marijuana businesses expires Jan. 2.

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