502 does not prevent cities and counties from banning marijuana businesses
OLYMPIA — In response to a request from Sharon Foster, chair of the Washington State Liquor
Control Board, the Attorney General’s Office today released a formal Attorney General’s Opinion regarding local ordinances affecting new marijuana businesses
by voters in 2012, Initiative 502 legalized the possession and sale of
recreational marijuana in Washington.
formal opinion concludes I-502 as drafted and presented to the voters does not
prevent local governments from regulating or banning marijuana businesses in
“Under Washington law, there is a strong
presumption against finding that state law preempts local ordinances. Although
Initiative 502 establishes a licensing and regulatory system for marijuana
producers, processors, and retailers in Washington State, it includes no clear
indication that it was intended to preempt local authority to regulate such
businesses. We therefore conclude that I-502 left in place the normal powers of
local governments to regulate within their jurisdictions.”
I-502’s drafters could have structured I-502 to require local governments to
accept marijuana businesses, they did not do so. If the Legislature wants to
change that, it can amend the law.
Background on AGO opinions
Attorney General Opinions
are issued only at the request of members of the state legislature, statewide
elected officials, appointed heads of state agencies, boards and commissions
and county prosecuting attorneys.
Attorney General’s Opinions are statements of the Attorney General’s official
views on legal questions relating to the duties of a public officer. They are
not binding on the courts, but are usually given careful consideration and
When an opinion is requested
the office first decides whether the request is appropriate for an opinion. If
so, there is a lengthy research, drafting, and review process.
For formal opinions, the
office publishes a notice in the state register and considers comments
submitted by the public.
The opinions are carefully
drafted by an assigned attorney, reviewed by Assistant Attorneys General, the
Opinions Chief, the Solicitor General and the Attorney General.
The Office of the Attorney General is the
chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27
divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state
agencies, boards and commissions. Attorney General Bob Ferguson is working hard
to protect consumers and seniors against fraud, keep our communities safe, protect
our environment and stand up for our veterans. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn
Guthrie, Director of Communications, (360) 586-0725
Dempsey-Hall, Deputy Communications Director, (206) 641-1335