Attorney General’s Office presented arguments to defend I-502, uphold will of the voters
TACOMA — For the fifth time, a superior court judge today agreed with an opinion issued by the Attorney General’s Office earlier this year, concluding that nothing in Initiative 502 overrides local governments’ authority to regulate or ban marijuana businesses. This allows I-502 to continue to be implemented. Every court to consider this issue has now agreed with the Attorney General’s opinion.
Yesterday’s ruling came from Pierce County Superior Court Judge Ronald Culpepper in the case of Green Collar LLC v. Pierce County. The plaintiffs in the case sought to open a marijuana business in Pierce County despite the county’s ban on such businesses. A formal opinion released by the AGO in January 2014 concluded that, as drafted, I-502 does not prevent cities and counties from banning marijuana businesses.
This is the second I-502 case to be heard before Culpepper. He made the initial ruling in August in a similar case involving the City of Fife. This is the fifth ruling in a row that agrees with the AGO opinion that nothing in Initiative 502 overrides local governments’ authority to regulate or ban marijuana businesses. The other rulings include Cowlitz County Superior Court Judge Evans’ ruling in December in similar case involving Clark County, Benton County Superior Court Judge Vic VanderSchoor’s ruling in November in a similar case involving the City of Kennewick and Chelan County Superior Court Judge T.W. Small’s ruling in October in a similar case involving the City of Wenatchee.
If courts continue to agree with the AGO opinion that I-502 does not require local governments and counties to allow marijuana businesses, they will not need to decide in these cases whether federal law preempts I-502. This allows I-502 to continue to be implemented.
“My office is working aggressively to uphold the will of the voters,” said Attorney General Bob Ferguson. “Today’s ruling affirms the opinion of my office earlier this year and allows Initiative 502 to continue to be implemented in Washington state. As I have said from the beginning, the drafters of Initiative 502 could have required local jurisdictions to allow the sale of recreational marijuana. It could have been done in a single sentence, but it was not. Now it is up to the Legislature to decide whether to require local governments to allow for the sale of marijuana.”
The AGO intervened in this case to uphold the will of the voters, defend I-502 and ensure its proper interpretation. The AGO does not represent the plaintiffs or Pierce County. Rather, the AGO is an additional party to the lawsuit. Deputy Solicitor General Jeff Even gave oral arguments on behalf of the Attorney General’s Office.
As noted above, this is the fifth ruling that agrees with the Attorney General’s Office on this issue. The plaintiffs in the first case, MMH, LLC v. Fife, have appealed the decision in their case to the Washington Supreme Court. The court will likely decide sometime early next year whether to accept review of that case.
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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