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Superior Court Decision on Fife Pot Ban

On Friday, August 29th, the Pierce County Superior Court issued an oral ruling, after the attorneys made their arguments, that the City of Fife has the authority to ban all  marijuana businesses. In essence, the judge agreed with the basic analysis given by the Attorney General in AGO 2014 No. 2 in January.

Because the court ruled in the city's favor on this local option issue, there was no need for the court to address the separate issued raised as to whether federal law preempts the state law legalizing recreational marijuana. Had the court addressed federal preemption issue and ruled in favor of federal preemption, the state law could not be implemented. A written opinion will be issued by the court within a few weeks. For more information on the court's decision, see the Attorney General's press release.

The trial court decision is good for those jurisdictions that want to opt out of a state-wide approach and respond to what they feel are the local values or concerns. It doesn't mean the marijuana cannot be used by residents of jurisdictions that ban marijuana businesses; it just means that those who wish to purchase recreational marijuana will need to travel to a jurisdiction that has approved its sale or buy it through the unregulated (black) market.

Keep in mind that an appeal of the Pierce County court's decision is likely, and could take some time to be resolved. If an appellate court - state court of appeals or supreme court - disagrees with the trail court on the issue of local option, then presumably the federal preemption issue could be resurrected.

As always, stay tuned!

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

Photo of Jim Doherty

About Jim Doherty

Jim had over 24 years of experience researching and responding to varied legal questions at MRSC. He had special expertise in transmission pipeline planning issues, as well as the issues surrounding medical and recreational marijuana. He is now retired.