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Washington Court of Appeals sides with Kent in lawsuit over medical pot ban

KENT, Wash. – April 2, 2014 – The Washington Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed Kent’s authority to prohibit medical marijuana collective gardens within its city limits.  


In its March 31 decision, the Court of Appeals agreed that medical marijuana use, including participation in collective gardens, is not legal in the state of Washington. It remains an affirmative defense to prosecution. 


In June of 2012, the Kent City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting medical marijuana collective gardens in all Kent zoning districts. The ordinance was challenged, and in the fall of 2012, the King County Superior Court ruled the City Council had the authority to do so.  The challengers then appealed, arguing the city’s prohibition was in conflict with state laws regulating medical marijuana. 


Kent’s Acting City Attorney, Pat Fitzpatrick, said he is pleased with the outcome.   


“This case is as much about a local jurisdiction’s legislative authority as it is about medical marijuana.  What may be right for Seattle may not be right for Kent, or other Washington cities or towns that face unique challenges.   


“When determining which land uses are or are not appropriate, it makes sense that city councils, which are more in tune with the needs and challenges of the city or town, should make those decisions,” Fitzpatrick said.   


The State Legislature attempted to legalize medical marijuana through a tightly-regulated registry system in 2011, but gubernatorial vetoes rendered legalization of medical marijuana ineffective.  


“That’s exactly why the city’s prohibition on medical marijuana collective gardens is allowed; because the city ordinance prohibits an activity that is also prohibited under state law. 


”As the Court of Appeals affirmed, medical marijuana is still not legal under state or federal law.  Any state law that requires a city to authorize marijuana land uses that violate federal law will create significant legal obstacles and challenges,” Fitzpatrick said. 


Although Kent’s case deals with medical marijuana, last January, a Washington Attorney General opinion determined that I-502 does not preempt cities or counties from banning recreational marijuana businesses within their jurisdictions.  



Michelle Wilmot, Community and Public Affairs