Lakewood City Hall needs to get off the fence when it comes to retail marijuana.
Here we are, more than four years after every precinct in the city voted in favor of Initiative 502, the statewide measure that supported legal and licensed retail marijuana, and there’s still not one pot store to be found in the city of 60,000 people.
Lakewood officials have refused to approve the three marijuana business licenses allocated to it by the state; they’ve also refused to adopt an honest-to-goodness ban. The inaction has left both the public and potential business owners stuck in limbo.
Enter state Rep. David Sawyer, D-Parkland, whose district includes parts of Lakewood. Sawyer, together with Reps. Steve Kirby, D-Tacoma, and Cary Condotta, R-Chelan, created House Bill 1099 to give a legislative shove to Lakewood — the only city identified by Sawyer that favors federal law over state law, therefore blocking the sale of marijuana products .
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Sawyer, who chairs the House committee on marijuana policy, says the message of HB1099 is simple: Cities must take an official stance on retail pot or forgo 70 percent of state distributed liquor revenues.
To this point, Lakewood City officials have said they don’t need to take an official stance; instead, they’ve let federal law do the talking.
When potential business owners apply for a license in Lakewood, they are given a standard questionnaire. For hopeful pot proprietors, however, Lakewood’s test is impossible to pass.
Petitioners are asked if their business will be in compliance with local, state and federal laws. If the answer to any of these questions is “no” — as it most certainly would be in the case of marijuana sales — the city will not issue a license.
Unless and until the complexities between state and federal drug policies are reconciled, Lakewood’s questionnaire has the same effect as a poll test given before the Civil Rights Act.
Though marijuana is legal in the state of Washington, it remains classified under federal law as a schedule 1 drug, the same classification applied to heroin and LSD.
President Obama’s administration largely viewed marijuana laws as a concern of the states, but there’s a new sheriff in town, and that means a new regulatory regime. How authorities under President Donald Trump will handle inherent conflicts between state and federal law is now mired in the realm of the great unknown.
Meanwhile, three hopeful Lakewood business owners stand in the wings, state licenses in hand, waiting for the city’s green light. Blaming federal law for denial of these licenses looks like an attempt to weasel out of making a hard call.
Consider HB 1099 a shot across the bow to prod the city to take a position, though the 70 percent revenue forfeiture might be a case of lawmakers using a high-powered cannon when smaller artillery would suffice.
Lakewood City Manager John Caulfield says if HB1099 becomes law, it could cost the city up to $540,000 per year and take four or five cops off the streets.
Lakewood already has a built-in consequence for not allowing retail marijuana: It doesn’t receive any revenue from state marijuana sales tax. Late-comer cities such as University Place and Fircrest have recently awakened to the benefits of pot revenue, while Fife appears to be tiptoeing away from its pot ban. One would think Pierce County’s second-largest city will join them, eventually.
But Sawyer says not reaping the harvest of Washington’s largest cash crop is not enough of an “incentive,” a euphemism he uses to characterize the comply-or-else nature of HB1099.
Hmmm. It seems more stick than carrot to us, but why quibble? His larger point remains valid.
Attention, Lakewood: Implement the will of the voters, or go clearly on record saying you don’t intend to.
Give your citizens and potential retailers the definitive decision they are due.