Lawmakers to cities: Don't freeze out pot shops

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 14, 2014 at 7:36 pm •  Published: January 14, 2014

SEATTLE (AP) — Some Washington lawmakers concerned about a possible pot-business freeze-out want to keep cities and towns from adopting marijuana-business bans, and they're looking at a couple ways of doing it.

On Tuesday, 10 representatives in the House — nine Democrats and one Republican, Rep. Gary Condotta — introduced a bill in Olympia that seeks to essentially ban pot bans, by requiring cities and counties to cooperate with state regulators in allowing licensed recreational marijuana gardens, processing facilities and stores to open within their jurisdictions.

If they don't, they could lose their share of disbursements from a state liquor-license account. The account sent $49.5 million to cities and counties statewide during the last fiscal year.

Another measure, this one sponsored by Condotta, would be the carrot to the other's stick. It would entice cities to allow marijuana businesses by giving them a slice of the revenue generated by retail marijuana sales.

"What some of the cities don't seem to understand is that this is all being done already: The pot is being sold, it's unregulated, it's not being taxed," said Condotta, of East Wenatchee. "We've got to capture this black market and move it into the light."

Washington voters legalized the sale of recreational marijuana to adults over 21 in 2012. Some jurisdictions, including unincorporated Pierce County, Lakewood and Wenatchee, have effective bans on pot businesses, because their local ordinances require businesses to follow state, federal and local law, and marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Nearly three dozen of the state's 75 biggest cities, from Redmond to Pullman, have adopted moratoriums of up to a year on marijuana businesses, according to a recent study by a Seattle-based marijuana think tank called The Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy. Some have been dropping those temporary bans as they adopt zoning regulations for pot-related businesses.

The state Liquor Control Board has worried that bans and moratoriums could create access problems in some communities that will make it difficult to channel marijuana users from the black market and into the regulated, taxed one.

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