Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson


Believes city’s federal preemption argument threatens to destroy marijuana Initiative 502

OLYMPIA — The Attorney General’s Office yesterday filed a brief in the case of MMH, LLC v. Fife. The plaintiffs in this case seek to open marijuana businesses in Fife despite the city’s ban on such businesses. The city argues that it is not required to allow such businesses under Initiative 502. The city also argues that if I-502 does require it to allow such businesses, then I-502 is preempted by federal law. The AGO intervened in this case to defend I-502 and its proper interpretation.

“This case presents a significant threat to the implementation of Initiative 502,” said Attorney General Bob Ferguson. “My office will continue to vigorously defend I-502 and uphold the will of the voters.”

The AGO’s brief, available here, first argues that nothing in I-502 overrides local governments’ preexisting authority to regulate local businesses, including marijuana businesses, through zoning or otherwise.

If the court agrees with the AGO on that issue, that will be the end of the case and no federal preemption issue will be presented, allowing I-502 to continue to be implemented. 

If the court disagrees with the AGO and holds that I-502 requires local governments to allow marijuana businesses, then the court must decide whether this requirement is preempted by federal law, as the City of Fife argues.

The AGO brief argues that such a requirement would not be preempted by federal law.  If the court disagrees and holds I-502 is preempted by federal law, and it is upheld on appeal, the marijuana legalization effort would be destroyed.

Also on Monday, Judge Culpepper allowed the American Civil Liberties Union to intervene in the case to represent several potential marijuana businesses in other jurisdictions. The ACLU asks the court to hold that local governments must allow marijuana businesses, then to decide the federal preemption issue and hold that I-502 is not preempted by federal law. 

A hearing on the cross-motions for summary judgment that have been filed in the case is scheduled for Friday, August 29, in Pierce County Superior Court before Judge Culpepper. 

There were originally two marijuana lawsuits filed against the City of Fife, Graybeard Holdings, LLC v. Fife and MMH, LLC v. Fife. Both cases were consolidated into MMH, LLC v. Fife.

– 30 –

The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Attorney General Bob Ferguson is working hard to protect consumers and seniors against fraud, keep our communities safe, protect our environment and stand up for our veterans. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.

Alison Dempsey-Hall, Acting Communications Director