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An appeals court in Washington state has ruled that a local county government has the right to ban retail cannabis stores from operating in their jurisdiction, a ruling that other jurisdictions are using to support the prohibition of similar businesses in their own communities. The ruling was delivered in the case of Sticky’s Pot Shop, a recreational cannabis store located in the small town of Hazel Dell near the Oregon border.
Sticky’s is fully legal under Washington state law, but in May 2014, Clark County commissioners passed an ordinance banning all retail pot businesses within the county. In December of 2015, John Larson, owner of state-licensed recreational canna-business Emerald Enterprises, chose to open Sticky’s in Hazel Dell, which is in Clark County, in spite of the ban. Just nine months after opening, a local judge ordered the store to be closed.
In the appeal, Larson’s attorney argued that the county’s anti-cannabis ordinance is unconstitutional because it prohibits a business activity otherwise legal within the state. The appeals court ruled in favor of the county, however, explaining that recent amendments to the state’s cannabis laws allow local jurisdictions to prohibit canna-businesses, at the cost of losing out on tax revenue from cannabis sales.
Larson intends to appeal his case to the state Supreme Court, according to the Columbian, but until that happens, the appeals court’s decision will hold. Six Washington counties and 80 cities have passed moratoriums or bans on canna-businesses since the state legalized pot in 2012, but the Clark County case marks the first appellate court ruling to provide guidance on the matter.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has issued an opinion that local jurisdictions can indeed ban cannabis establishments because state law does not supersede local government in the matter. In a recent statement, Ferguson