The Pragmatic Sophist


Rick Sorrels

Medical marijuana is now illegal throughout Washington state

Medical marijuana is now illegal throughout Washington state, according to a 26-page Court of Appeals decision entered on March 31, 2014. Under the legal principal of “stare decisis”, subsequent decisions of the lower courts must abide by the appellate decision on similar issues in future cases.

Cannabis Action Coalition brought the case against the city of Kent in King County Superior Court. The Coalition challenged Kent’s right to regulate or ban collective gardens through zoning ordinances that banned collective gardens within the city limits.

There were three major rulings made in the decision. First, the Appellate Court affirmed a municipality’s right to establish restrictions (and prohibitions) through zoning ordinances.

Second, that “collective gardens” were never legal under the statute.

Third, the Court analyzed the 2011 amendments to the medical marijuana laws which were changed significantly by Governor Gregoire’s line item veto, whereby over half of the amendments passed by the legislature were negated. This left the statutory affirmative defenses only available if a person was “registered”, but all references to a registry were removed, thereby eliminating any available defense.

Governor Gregoire vetoed all reference to the “registry” following receipt of an April 14, 2011 letter from the United States Attorneys stating that state employees would be subject to prosecution under the Controlled Substance Act if they participated in a licensing scheme (the registry) that permits large-scale marijuana cultivation and distribution.

The legislature did not override the governor’s veto, so the act, as vetoed, remains the law.

Emily Langlie, the Media Spokesperson for the United States Attorneys’ office in Seattle said, “The Court of Appeals decision does not change anything at this point. Medical marijuana has always been illegal.”

There was no further appeal filed. All medical marijuana cultivation, distribution, and use in Washington State is again illegal under both Federal and Washington statutes and case law.

This case only addresses medical marijuana. Recreational use statutes created subsequent to I-502 are a different issue.

The entire Court of Appeals decision and other comments can be found by searching “city of Kent WA marijuana decision.”

It is interesting to note that in 1998, the medical marijuana dispensaries campaigned against the medical marijuana initiative, I-692, because they felt the blood level for THC being adopted was too restrictive and would still measure a “high” long after it actually wore off.  This DUI blood-level provision still remains the law in Washington.

The “don’t mess with adopted Initiatives” requirement only lasts for two years before the politicians can “adjust” what the citizens voted.

One step forward, two steps back.

I foresee another Initiative in our future, with both sides being wiser.