By Pat Jenkins
Mayors of cities and towns across Washington, including Eatonville, want the state to help cover any costs of local enforcement of laws governing legalized sales of recreational marijuana.
The mayors say their municipalities deserve the financial support because they will bear the brunt of watchdog duties for the emerging marijuana industry.
Citiing estimates that the state will collect at least $200 million a year in tax revenue from legalized sales over the next four years, the mayors are asking that a portion go toward local enforcement and related costs as soon as the revenue starts flowing into state coffers.
Nearly 100 mayors, acting through the Association of Washington Cities, staked their claim in a letter late last month to legislators. The mayors claimed the state may fail to deliver a fully controlled recreational marijuana market that voters statewide approved in November 2012. Since then, the state has been crafting rules for the new industry and more recently has been reviewing applications for retail outlets. The first legalized sales of pot for recreational use are expected to begin in June.
“The majority of marijuana sales and use will occur in our jurisdictions,” the mayors said in their letter. “This makes us responsible for overseeing permitting, code enforcement, ensuring money and drugs stay out of criminal hands, preventing distribution to minors, and addressing drugged driving and other adverse public health consequences. If the state is relying on cities to enforce new marijuana laws, it needs to provide some of the new marijuana tax revenues to pay for it.”
Eatonville Mayor Mike Schaub wasn’t among those who signed the letter initially, but he said he’ll add his name to the list because he supports their position.
Schaub noted that there are no pending license applications for retail marijuana businesses in Eatonville. “But we could in the future,” he said. “I believe all jurisdictions will be impacted by the new laws and that part of the revenues should help pay for the impacts.”
Pierce County officials haven’t indicated if they would expect similar financial support, but it’s a moot point for now. The county is banning any legalized businesses for making and selling recreational marijuana until the U.S. removes pot from its list of federally controlled substances. Congress has no plans to do that.
State regulations allow 31 marijuana businesses to eventually operate in Pierce County in unincorporated areas. License applications have been filed by prospective operators for locations near Eatonville and in Graham, among other places, but none would be permitted under the county ban.