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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Tacoma Pot Shops Win Temporary Reprieve

TACOMA, Wash. (CN) - A dozen unlicensed medical marijuana shops won a temporary reprieve last week when a Washington state judge gave them time to prove they are operating legally in Tacoma.

Pierce County Superior Court Judge Frank Cuthbertson granted a temporary injunction despite the city's argument that it had the right to shut down the pot shops immediately.

City officials said that only marijuana businesses licensed by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board could operate in Tacoma, which planned to start closing unlicensed shops on Oct. 1.

The shops filed separate complaints seeking injunctive relief against the city. They are operating under a previous state law that allowed medical marijuana patients to form "collective gardens" to grow and sell cannabis.

A new law combines the state's medical and recreational marijuana systems and requires all marijuana sellers to have a license or to close by July 1, 2016.

Washington voters approved recreational marijuana in 2012.

The 12 pot shops say they comply with the law as it stands and should not be forced to close.

Tacoma "completely disregards existing city code and advises that collective gardens will be subject to summary enforcement/closure as determined by the city," according to the complaints.

In Tacoma's response , the city attorney says the businesses are not collective gardens, but "illegal medical marijuana dispensaries."

"So many of these operations, as stated above, are selling marijuana, possessing more than legally allowed for a collective garden, and are selling products that are illegal for them to sell. With their storefront commercial activities, they are 'engaging in business' within the City of Tacoma. And since they are illegal, are unlicensed by the state Liquor and Cannabis Board, they cannot obtain the necessary city business license. Thus, they are operating illegally within the city," the city attorney said in the response.

City Attorney Elizabeth Pauli told the Tacoma News Tribune: "It's the city's position that they aren't collective gardens."

No date has been set yet for further court proceedings.

Attorney Jay Berneburg, who represents the businesses, said in a Facebook post, "The fight continues."

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