Washington cities can exclude medical-marijuana gardens, holds the Washington Supreme Court

Cannabis Action Coalition v. City of Kent, No. 90204-6 (Wash. May 21, 2015).

Cannabis indica (courtesy of flickr)

Cannabis indica (courtesy of flickr)

Washington’s medical-marijuana law allows qualifying patients to create “collective gardens” to grow medical marijuana. The law also grants Washington municipalities the power to adopt and enforce “zoning requirements” relating to “the production, processing, or dispensing” of medical marijuana. Kent has invoked that power to exclude collective gardens from its limits. This case asks whether the state’s medical-marijuana law conflicts with, and thus preempts, Kent’s local exclusion. 

The Supreme Court, by an eight-to-one vote, decides that the state medical-marijuana law granted Kent the power to adopt its exclusion. By authorizing cities to adopt zoning laws pertaining to “the production, processing, or dispensing” of medical marijuana, the law authorized cities to exclude collective gardens, which produce, process, and dispense medical marijuana. The law does prohibit cities from excluding “licensed dispensers,” but collective gardens aren’t licensed—and, in fact, then-Governor Gregoire vetoed the sections of the law that had created a licensing system for dispensers. So, while the prohibition against excluding licensed dispensers doesn’t retain any independent meaning in light of the veto, it does suggest that Washington cities can exclude production, processing, or dispensing by entities other than licensed dispensers—including collective gardens.