Unless you have been living under a rock, than you know that Washington State legalized marijuana during the 2012 Election. Sales started on July 7, 2014 in some areas, while other areas either didn’t have a retail license issued yet, or areas had a ban in place. Two areas that banned marijuana businesses, Wenatchee and Fife, have become the subject of multiple lawsuits filed by businesses that wish to overturn the bans.
The lawsuits involve some interesting legal arguments. The municapalities that passed the bans did so based upon faulty logic, claiming that federal law pre-empted state law. I-502, which was the initiative that legalized marijuana in Washington, does not prevent areas from banning marijuana businesses. However, it does prevent areas from nullifying state law, which is essentially what areas are doing if they are relying on the ‘federal pre-emption argument.’
Because there is the state nullification angle to the lawsuits, Washington’s Attorney General is stepping into the cases to represent the state. Per the BLS Courier Herald:
“As Attorney General, my job is to make sure the will of the people is upheld,” said Ferguson. “If any party to these lawsuits seeks to overturn state laws, my office will be there to defend the law.”
The AGO is authorized by law to intervene in a lawsuit to protect the interests of the people of the state. Intervention means the AGO would become a party to each lawsuit and be able to participate fully in briefings, hearings and trial. The AGO often intervenes, for example, in environmental and consumer protection cases.
Had Wenatchee and Fife based their bans on more sound legal reasoning, the bans wouldn’t risk being overturned. However, as is often the case, they didn’t perform their due diligence, and instead relied upon reefer madness and tried to hide behind the federal government. It’s too late for the areas to change the reasoning behind their bans, and I predict that they will lose the lawsuits. What happens from there is still up in the air, but I’d imagine this will be a long fight in Washington’s court system.