Posted by: Patricia Salkin | June 10, 2015

WA Supreme Court Holds Medical Use of Cannabis Act Did Not Impliedly Preempt Field of Medical Marijuana

Under the Washington State Medical Use of Cannabis Act (MUCA), qualifying patients may participate in “collective gardens” to pool resources and grow medical marijuana for their own use. However, MUCA granted cities and towns the power to zone the “production, processing, or dispensing” of medical marijuana. Given this state law, the city of Kent enacted a zoning ordinance that prohibits collective gardens within its city limits. The Plaintiffs, Cannabis Action Coalition, sued the city of Kent, its city council, and its mayor Suzette Cook (collectively Kent) in King County Superior Court, seeking to have the Ordinance declared preempted and invalid. The Superior Court ruled in Kent’s favor and upheld the Ordinance, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

The Supreme Court noted that a statute preempts the field and invalidates a local ordinance within that field if there is express legislative intent to preempt the field or if such intent is necessarily implied from the purpose of the statute and the facts and circumstances under which it was intended to operate. Here, the MUCA expressly contemplates local regulation of medical marijuana, and recognizes local authority by granting cities and towns the power to zone the “production, processing, or dispensing” of medical marijuana. The court then discussed conflict preemption, and found that whether MUCA conflicts with the Ordinance turns on the scope of Kent’s power to zone medical marijuana activities under RCW 69.51A.140(1). Since the relevant of the Ordinance’s text drew no distinction between commercial and noncommercial operations, the court turned to the plain and ordinary meaning; holding that the plain and ordinary meaning of the provision that a city may adopt zoning requirements for the “production, processing, or dispensing” of medical marijuana provides no reason to limit these concepts to only commercial activities. Likewise, the court found the provision was not limited to only licensed producers.

Accordingly, the court found Kent had properly exercised its authority under RCW 69.51A.140(1) to zone the land use activity involving collective gardens. Because the Ordinance was consistent with state law and was not preempted, the holding of the Court of Appeals was affirmed.

Cannabis Action Coalition v City of Kent, 2015 WL 2418553 (WA 5/21/15)

The opinion can be accessed at:

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