A number of marijuana related bills have been introduced during Washington State’s 2016 legislative session. Among these bills is one that would limit the ability of cities and counties to prohibit marijuana businesses within their jurisdictions.
I have written extensively about the problems faced by marijuana business in finding suitable locations due to local moratoria and restrictive zoning regulations. Approximately 88 cities and eight counties completely prohibit marijuana businesses. Numerous other jurisdictions have enacted strict zoning regulations and additional permitting requirements for these businesses.
HB 1438 seeks to alleviate this problem by prohibiting municipalities from banning marijuana retailers without first putting the ban to a public vote. The bill, as originally proposed, also precluded cities and counties from banning marijuana production and processing facilities without a public vote. A substitute bill was subsequently passed out of the House Commerce and Gaming Committee that narrowed the bill to only apply to marijuana retailers. The bill will now go before State House of Representatives for further consideration.
HB 1438 represents a welcome first step in reigning in the ability of cities and counties to prohibit state licensed marijuana businesses. Marijuana producers and processors, however, should be afforded the same protections from local bans as marijuana retailers. Overly restrictive and prohibitive local regulations only work to abet the black market. We urge the state legislature to move forward with this bill and other legislation to facilitate growth of the legal marijuana market.
For more information on the regulation of marijuana businesses, please contact Heather Wolf.