Reject pot operations, University Place attorney advises

Aspiring recreational marijuana entrepreneurs looking to call University Place home would have to look elsewhere if the City Council approves a resolution Monday banning marijuana operations in the city.

The council is set to decide whether to allow businesses that grow, process or sell marijuana-related products within city limits. City attorney Steve Victor has recommended the council follow long-standing federal law banning pot, even though marijuana was decriminalized by Washington state voters in 2012.

Elected leaders in UP have the option to allow the businesses, but Victor recommended against it in a letter to the council. He said he couldn’t recommend the council “subject itself, or attempt to subject any other officer or employee of the city to federal criminal prosecution.”

Smoking or using marijuana will still be allowed in the city of 31,000 under the conditions laid out by state Initiative 502.

The City Council previously postponed a decision on recreational marijuana by passing a series of six-month moratoriums. The latest timeout expires in May.

The state has allocated one retail license for University Place. Victor recommended the council take action now before the state Liquor Control Board issues that license and gives a marijuana shop a stronger basis to stay open.

The council’s anticipated vote comes after a state attorney general’s opinion that determined local jurisdictions can regulate recreational marijuana businesses.

Other Pierce County governments have taken varied positions on the issue.

Pierce County, Lakewood and Sumner have said marijuana entrepreneurs aren’t welcome unless the federal government changes its stance on pot. The Puyallup City Council extended a six-month moratorium on recreational pot last month, saying it needs more time to study a planning commission recommendation to allow businesses within certain zones. 

Cities such as Tacoma and Gig Harbor have changed city code to allow marijuana operations in limited areas.

The University Place City Council will discuss the issue at a special meetingat 6:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 3715 Bridgeport Way West.

Brynn Grimley: 253-597-8467