Law & Politics

Apparently inspired by the handful of elected officials in D.C. who brought our government to a dead stop, several Pierce County, WA council members are planning a similar “shutdown.” Rather than threatening fiscal default to rail against a binding law, these forward-thinkers in Pierce Co. are attempting to block cannabis legalization within their county.

At a debate discussing how to regulate marijuana businesses within Pierce Co., three options were put on the table:
1. Allow marijuana retail, production, and processing in approved zones.
2. Require federal approval prior to all marijuana business licenses issued.
3. Prohibit marijuana production and retail all together.

Two democratic council members voted in favor of option 1 (which is the state standard) to restrict marijuana processing and retail to certain zones.

The remaining 5 members, all republican, either voted for outright prohibition or for federal approval, which is tantamount to prohibition.

At the end of the session, the council made no recommendation for action with a final vote scheduled for Nov. 5th. The state liquor board, who also governs marijuana, will begin accepting license applications on Nov. 18th. If these council members stay their course, they will at the very least garner a lawsuit. At worst, they will cost their county tons of money in an ill-advised moral campaign that will, ultimately, accomplish very little outside of putting Pierce county in the position of playing catch-up when they see the revenues of their neighboring counties.

Pierce County, WA Council Members Seek to Reinstall Prohibition 2, Source:

Note it does not say “victory.” It’s the law, deal with it.

I want to be careful (and respectful) and not generalize this as yet another dead end Donkey/Elephant conflict. I do not think this is a purely partisan political issue. I think, generally, it’s an easy assumption to make that democrats are pro-weed while republicans are anti-weed. The truth is not quite so black and white. I’m certain that, without too much research, I could dredge up anecdotal evidence illustrating dems that do not want cannabis legalization and republicans supporting such a measure. Actually, Jay Inlsee, Washington’s democratic Governor (first elected on the same ballot that passed I-502) came out saying that he personally did not want I-502 to be law; but, since it was approved by the voters, he would implement and uphold it. Disagreement and discourse should lead to compromise and, eventually, progress.

Our legislative system is by no means perfect or speedy, but, in its purest form, that is why it is good. Issues should undergo the scrutiny of thorough analysis and discussion before laws are made.

However, once the issue has been petitioned about, campaigned upon, voted into law and ratified by congress, your job (whichever side of the aisle you claim) is to respect the will of the people who voted both for the law in question and your cushy council seat. Your job is to uphold the law. If you truly think it is wrong, there is a process to follow to perhaps change it. But what the Pierce County brain trust is doing (just like the tempest in a tea cup T-baggers) is simply refusing to do their jobs. The entire system of governance falls apart if a tiny group of people can thwart the overwhelming will of the population.

Pierce County is not strongly populated. In fact, King County, home to Seattle, is about the only reason Washington is considered a blue state. Without King County, I-502 would have died in utero. The ripples of this stall tactic will likely only propagate within Pierce County’s borders, but I don’t like the notion or the precedent it may set. As we have clearly seen on the national stage, a small faction of outliers can wreak significant havoc. A spotlight needs to be shown here and this minuscule kernel of stubborn heel-draggers needs to be flushed out of our burgeoning bud paradise before they become a veritable kidney stone that necessitates surgical removal.

This event further enforces my belief that, though the “hard” part of getting prohibition repealed is behind us, we must stay vigilant and forever watchful so in the future we do not once again find ourselves in the morass of prohibition from which we have only begun to escape. After all, cannabis was not even on the radar of law enforcement until alcohol prohibition ended. It is not too far-fetched to think that, if we fall asleep at the gates, the hydra of prohibition could sprout a new head and devour another generation.