Recreational Marijuana: A Guide for Local Governments
With Initiative 502 passed, the feds giving the green light, and new regulations effective November 16th, it's time for local governments across Washington State to get serious about a regulated recreational marijuana industry!
To help, MRSC has put together a comprehensive guide for local governments on how to implement recreational marijuana on the municipal level. In the following web pages you find basic information about implementation, regulatory documents, sample ordinances, and more. Using this information we hope that your municipality can develop the right set of policies for your community.
State Attorney General Says Cities and Counties Can Ban Recreational Marijuana Uses, 01/16/2014
AWC Webinar on Licensing Issues - Includes detailed presentations by Alan Rathbun of the state Liquor Control Board, and Jon Walker, Deputy City Attorney of Tacoma. The primary topic is the criteria used by the LCB to grant licenses and the grounds for cities or counties to object to the granting of marijuana licenses, 11/12/2013
- Superior Court Decision on Fife Pot Ban, 09/02/2014
- Marijuana Update: Litigation & Licensed Businesses Slowly Begin Operating, 08/20/2014
- Wenatchee and Centralia Sued on Recreational Marijuana Issues, 06/25/2014
- Pot Stores Are Opening Amid Concerns About Infused Products (Not Yet on the Shelves), 07/10/2014
- Wenatchee Marijuana Litigation Update, 06/30/2014
- Wenatchee and Centralia Sued on Recreational Marijuana Issues, 06/25/2014
- Marijuana Concentrates - New Legislation, 04/30/2014
- Our Legislature Talks Marijuana, But That's All (Sigh), 03/26/2014
- Update on Marijuana Licensing, 02/20/2014
- State Attorney General Says Cities and Counties Can Ban Recreational Marijuana Uses, 01/16/2014
- Local Government Authority and the New Marijuana Industry, 11/13/2013
- Response letter to Deputy Solicitor General Jeff Even by Yakima City Attorney Jeff Cutter regarding local authority, 12/10/2013
- Medical Marijuana Reform Starts!, 10/22/2013
- Marijuana Buffer Rule Modified, 09/16/2013
- Revised Regulations and Retail Licenses by County, 09/04/2013
- Feds Outline Stance on Recreational Marijuana, 08/29/2013
- An Update on the I-502 Implementation Process, 08/28/2013
Stay up-to-date on recreational marijuana and other municipal governance issues through MRSC's blog, MRSC Insight.
Click on any of the headers below for more information related to recreational marijuana in Washington State.
I-502 provides for a 1,000 foot buffer separation between licensed marijuana businesses and designated, schools, parks, recreation centers, etc. All licensed marijuana businesses will need to comply with local government land use and zoning regulations. There is a regulatory process established for local government agencies to object to the proposed issuance of a marijuana business license to a specific individual or for a specific location within their jurisdiction.
For more information, see our page on Marijuana Land Use Issues.
The state liquor control board is starting to issue licenses for marijuana producers, processors and retailers. Building inspectors and local government officials need to be aware of relevant code issues raised by this new industry -- and local governments must understand which code requirements are enforced by local governments and which are enforced by state agencies.
For more information, see our page on Marijuana Regulatory Compliance Issues.
I-502 legalized the possession and private recreational use of marijuana. Police officers may arrest individuals for driving under the influence of marijuana and issue citations for consuming marijuana in public. The Washington State Liquor Control Board has until December, 2013, to establish the procedures and criteria for issuing licenses to produce, process, and sell marijuana. Until retail stores licensed by the Liquor Control Board are open for business, there is no legal way to obtain the drug for non-medicinal use.
For more information, see our page Enforcing Recreational Marijuana.
I-502 does not change employers' rights under Washington law, and marijuana remains illegal under federal law. The initiative is silent on the topic of drug testing. Where in force, federal regulations may still prohibit use and mandate testing for marijuana.
For more information, see our page on Marijuana in the Workplace.
Revenues from the excise tax on marijuana will be distributed primarily to the Liquor Control Board for administrative expenses, to the state's Basic Health Plan, to the state general fund, and to health-related programs. B&O and local retail sales taxes apply.
For more information, see our page on Taxing Recreational Marijuana.
The federal government, through the Department of Justice, has indicated a willingness to allow this new approach toward marijuana being pioneered by the States of Washington and Colorado. However, the federal government has indicated a number of concerns, which seem to be addressed by the provisions in initiative 502 and the proposed rules being adopted by the Liquor Control Board.
For more information, see our page on Federal Response to State Regulated Marijuana.
I-502 makes no mention of medical marijuana. Washington's Medical Use of Marijuana Act (Ch. 69.51A RCW) remains unchanged. Medical marijuana dispensaries will not automatically become retail marijuana stores, but it is possible that a medical marijuana collective garden/dispensary could change to being a recreational marijuana retail store if the owner obtained a state license for the sale of recreational marijuana.
For more information on I-502 and medical marijuana, see our page on Medical v. Recreational Marijuana.
Liquor Control Board Documents
- Bellevue - Staff memorandum, 07/13/2013
- Everett - Official comments to the Liquor Control Board, 07/31/2013
- Kirkland - Planning department memo, 07/13/2013
- Mukilteo - Staff report, 04/08/2013
- Spokane Valley - Briefing to city Council, 07/16/2013
Association of Washington Cities Resources
- Comments to the Liquor Control Board, 06/04/2013
- FAQ for cities
- AWC Webinars - A series of webinars and short videos produced by the Association of Washington Cities on various marijuana issues. The webinars provide more detailed information on the issues that have arisen over the past year as the state moves forward with a regulated and taxed public marijuana industry.
New Regulations for Personal Use
Recreational Marijuana Ordinances across Washington
We are attempting to provide accurate and complete data from all jurisdictions in Washington: please provide MRSC with your relevant ordinances or other documents by sending them to Josh Mahar, MRSC Outreach Coordinator. Updates to our data, questions, and comments all welcome.
1. The Arlington moratorium applies to producers and processors, but not retailers.
2. The Lakewood ordinance amended the city’s licensing code in November of 2013 to provide that all businesses operating in the city have to be compliant with local, state and federal law.
3. On September 30, 2013, the Sunnyside city council voted to extend the city's moratorium on the producing, processing and selling of recreational marijuana within city limits to 12 months from its original six months.
4. In Kittitas County retailing of marijuana is prohibited in the unincorporated areas of the county.
5. San Juan County will accommodate state licensed marijuana businesses under its existing zoning regulations.
6. In Skagit County, licensed marijuana businesses are permitted in established county zones, in accordance with the Guidance Memo. See also the county's Press Release from December 5th, 2013.
7. Jefferson County’s moratorium only applies to producers and processors, it does not impact licensed retail marijuana businesses.
8. While Sumas does allow production and process as conditional uses, there is a moratorium on retail uses.
9. Entiat does not directly prohibit marijuana but requires business applicants to sign a form stating they are following local, state, and federal laws.
- Innovative Policy Experiment in Washington Will Grow Marijuana Knowledge, August 26, 2014
- Prospectors seek fortune in legal pot, USA Today, November 18, 2013
- Marijuana, Seed to Sale - by James Ross Gardner, Seattle Met, November 2013. Between November 18 and December 18, the Washington State Liquor Control Board will accept license applications for marijuana producers, processors, and retailers. Here's how pot will get from the grow-op to the pipe bowl.
- Moving Toward Legal Marijuana Commerce in Washington State, by Phillip Smith, www.stopthedrugwar.org, June 12, 2013 - This article describes the current status of I-502 implementation and discusses several issues of concern, including diversion of product, advertising, and size of grow operations.
- Council panel OKs zoning for big pot-growing operations, Seattle Times, May 22, 2013
- Indoor pot production leaves giant carbon footprint, Seattle Times, May 13, 2013
- Editorial: Close the tax gap between medical and recreational marijuana, Seattle Times, April 8, 2013
- Federal Bank Rules Leave Pot Businesses With No Place to Put Proceeds, by Greg Lamm, Puget Sound Business Journal, April 2013
- Weed won't make state a lot of money, consultant says, Seattle Times, March 30, 2013