There’s a growing rebellion against the state’s newest industry. Elected leaders of at least 41 cities and three counties have enacted prohibitions against wholesale and retail cannabis operations.
Another 80 cities or so have moratoriums in place to bar wannabe entrepreneurs from setting up shop in the foreseeable future, based on news accounts and a tally kept by the Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington.
That means roughly 40 percent of Washington’s 281 cities are saying “no” or “not yet” to the cannabis industry that was created by voters two years ago with the passage of Initiative 502.
There’s no move afoot to repeal that law, but it’s evident that while plenty of Washington residents now shudder at the thought of it transacting anywhere near them.
“It is a huge struggle,” said Dominic Corva, executive director of The Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy in Seattle, a think tank which promotes a cannabis industry through research and action.
“What’s going on here, I think, is when people voted for it they had no knowledge of how cannabis agriculture works. It’s like an angry rebellion in residential areas.”
The causes of the spreading insurgency vary.
In some cities, council members were worried too many pot sellers would open and eventually become a burden on police resources. In others, there’s frustration that the law doesn’t give cities a share of marijuana taxes, and until that changes they aren’t willing to allow it.
Supporters appear to be caught off guard by what amounts to the need to conduct a campaign on the costs and benefits of cannabis in communities throughout Washington.
Individuals, some wishing to get into the business, do make their case in council chambers, but their voices are drowned out by opponents.
Corva said a better organized response is needed to counter the rebels if the fledgling industry is to get the chance to prove itself beyond the borders of the 90 cities where it is allowed.
“We’ve got to reorient our sense of how to deal with this,” he said. “We weren’t thinking about it that way.”
Jerry Cornfield is a political reporter who covers Olympia for The Daily Herald in Everett, which is among the Washington state newspapers in the Sound Publishing group. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.