Our Voice: Banning pot businesses will not keep city pot-free

June 3, 2014 

Marijuana plant ready for trimming

RICK WILKING/REUTERS

The will of the people is not always easy to deal with.

When voters in Washington approved legalization of marijuana in 2012, it set off a chain reaction of complications, compounded by the fact that federal law still prohibits pot.

Cities across the state are grappling with how to handle marijuana-related businesses within their boundaries.

In many cases, cities have passed moratoriums on marijuana businesses.

We understand they need more time to figure out how to make it work. Our state doesn't even have the system quite figured out, and shops are set to open this summer.

But some cities have banned marijuana businesses outright. Yakima and Wenatchee have done that, and we wouldn't be surprised to see some of our local jurisdictions follow suit.

At a recent Pasco City Council meeting, the majority of the council leaned toward a ban. The city's moratorium -- the second it has passed -- is set to expire in September.

The lone dissenting council member gave a fervent speech about allowing the retail sale, growing and processing of recreational marijuana in Pasco.

We agree with her.

The majority of voters in our state moved to make it legal, and that's how our initiative process functions. You have an idea, gather enough signatures to make the ballot and then let the people decide.

"Commerce and justice do not flourish and cannot be fairly dispensed if we allow each jurisdiction to personalize rules for their own local population," said Councilwoman Rebecca Francik.

"The argument that individual counties can selectively choose which state laws they wish to obey leads to chaos and inefficiency for our citizens.

"I think that when a city council votes to substitute their personal wisdom over the vote of a democratically certified election, we are taking a step away from democracy."

State law does allow cities to ban the sale or production of marijuana, though it can't prohibit its use.

So whether people buy marijuana in Pasco, they still will use marijuna in the city.

A ban doesn't keep it out.

As citizens, we don't get to decide which laws to obey, so why do cities?

While it is true that the majority of Franklin County voters opposed Initiative 502, that shouldn't matter.

We are one state, and the majority determines the outcome.

Do we always like the end result? No. But as citizens of Washington, we're still obligated to follow the law or suffer the consequences.

Our state's cities have certainly been put in a predicament to figure out how to incorporate a whole new category of business.

The federal government continues to send mixed messages about its tolerance level for states that have legalized pot.

And the state has not provided nearly enough of a road map for the local jurisdictions.

But times, they are a-changing. Pot is legal; same sex marriage is legal.

A decade ago, either of those realities would have been unthinkable.

It's a tricky issue. We get it. But the people have spoken. Pot is legal in Washington and the businesses that support that industry should be allowed to function just as any other legal businesses.

It's OK for cities to take their time and get comfortable with their plans, but it's not OK to address the issue by banning legal businesses. Find a way to make it work and follow the will of the people -- just like the rest of us.

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