Guest: Cities And Counties Have A Right To Ban The Sale Of Marijuana

WASHINGTON: Marijuana legalization under Initiative 502 is a bold experiment. As attorney general, I am defending that state law rigorously. But one question threatens to unravel marijuana legalization in Washington state and, potentially, across the country: Can cities and counties ban the sale of marijuana within their local jurisdiction?

When asked to answer that important question, I reviewed the law carefully and concluded that, yes, they may. Local governments have broad authority to pass their own laws unless a state law explicitly says they can’t. Simply put, the language of I-502 does not prohibit local bans. The drafters could have included such a provision, but they did not. Many marijuana advocates were disappointed in this conclusion, but my job is to go where the law takes me, whatever the outcome.

Some I-502 supporters claim that my legal conclusion undermines marijuana legalization. In fact, while my opinion is grounded solely on an objective reading of the law, it also protects I-502.

Here’s how: Although I-502 legalized marijuana under state law, it did not change federal law. The United States still bans marijuana, and federal officials could prosecute Washington residents even if they are following I-502. Some cities and counties, in defending their bans on marijuana sales, have already argued in court that federal law completely invalidates (or “pre-empts”) I-502.

Justice Department Giving Washington State Access To FBI Database

WASHINGTON: After a year of requests, the U.S. Justice Department says it is giving Washington state access to an FBI database so it can conduct nationwide background checks on people who apply to run legal marijuana businesses.

In a statement provided to The Associated Press, the department said Thursday that allowing the checks is consistent with its priorities in letting legal marijuana experiments in Washington and Colorado move forward — including keeping people with troublesome criminal histories out of the industry.

Washington state officials first asked last April for permission to run the checks.