OLYMPIA – Cities and counties couldn’t ban licensed marijuana stores without a public vote under a proposal approved Monday by a House committee.
Local governments could still ban marijuana growers and processing operations, even if they receive licenses from the state Liquor and Cannabis Board. But a revised version of House Bill 1438 would not allow a ban or moratorium on state licensed retail operations unless voters approve it at a general election.
The House Commerce and Gaming Committee sent it to the full House on a 6-3 vote.
Chairman Christopher Hurst said the bill tries to comply with Initiative 502 and the desire of voters to have a “safe, regulated” way to buy recreational marijuana. Since that initiative passed, the state has set up a system to regulate and license the production and sale of recreational marijuana, and last year also put medical marijuana under the control of the Liquor and Cannabis Board.
“You shouldn’t have to drive halfway across the state to buy it,” Hurst, D-Pierce County, said.
After the board established regulations for marijuana licenses, some local governments imposed bans on those businesses and others imposed a moratorium after a certain number of businesses were licensed. Some restrictions were enacted in areas where I-502 passed.
To determine the “will of the voters”, the bill would require the government body put a proposed ban on marijuana stores on a general election ballot. Residents of a county or city also could put the ban on the ballot as an initiative by collecting signatures from 30 percent of the voters in that jurisdiction.
“That sounds excessively high” said Rep. Elizabeth Scott, R-Monroe. She voted against the proposal, saying she’s talked to some voters who are having second thoughts about voting for I-502. But she might support a revision if it had a lower threshold for putting at a possible ban on the ballot.