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News >  Marijuana

Washington cities say they can ban pot sales in problem zones

Jan. 25, 2017 Updated Wed., Jan. 25, 2017 at 5:39 p.m.

OLYMPIA – When a Washington lawmaker offered to give cities the power to limit pot stores in problem areas, the cities were quick to respond.

No thanks, they said Wednesday. We’re pretty sure we’ve already got that authority. Don’t go confusing the courts, which seem to agree.

At issue is a proposal by Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, to allow cities to ban retail marijuana stores in an “alcohol impact area.” Cities can already declare such an area and limit or prohibit the sales of certain high-alcohol beer and wine if there are problems with chronic drunkeness.

Spokane has such a zone in downtown Spokane. The city has also received complaints about a marijuana store opening near Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral, and Baumgartner attended a summit of state and local leaders with parishioners upset about the store.

“I think it’s good to have that tool out there” for retail marijuana stores, he said when introducing his bill in the Commerce, Labor and Sports Committee, where he serves as chairman.

But cities don’t support the bill, said Candice Bock, a lobbyist for the Association of Washington Cities.

“Our concern is, we already have that authority,” Bock told the committee. Cities have used zoning and regulations to limit where retail marijuana shops can open. They’ve been sued, but so far the courts have sided with the cities.

If the Legislature codifies that authority, the courts might rule on other matters that cities can’t do things that aren’t specifically mentioned in state law, she said. It might be better to rewrite the law to say the state Liquor and Cannabis Board to add marijuana to the things that can be banned in an impact area, she added.

The board, which licenses both alcohol and marijuana businesses, works with cities on rules for alcohol impact areas and on regulations for marijuana stores, said the agency’s director of licensing, Becky Smith.

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