We admit, the thought is surreal. The idea of a perfectly legal state-licensed corner store selling marijuana, a retail operation not so different from selling cigarettes, pop and beer, is difficult for the mind long accustomed to pot prohibition to accept. We the law-abiding think of marijuana as fodder for the police blotter, not something people can walk down the street and buy.
Time for a reality check. People can walk down to the street and buy it now. They have been able to for years. It’s just that now, perhaps in a few months’ time, it will be legal. It will be controlled, monitored, and managed under law.
So we wonder what the Wenatchee City Council hopes to accomplish with its vote to banish marijuana stores from inside the city limits. The council, expressing some disdain for Initiative 502, refused on a 4-3 vote to provide an exemption to city rule that would have allowed marijuana retail operations, eventually. Other cities and counties have placed a moratorium on marijuana shops, a wait-and-see move, effectively shuffling off to the sidelines until the smoke clears, so to speak. Wenatchee’s no is absolute. Cashmere is similarly adamant.
Chelan County commissioners took a more reasonable tack in a vote last week, agreeing to shorten a six-month moratorium to four, to allow for adjustments in planning and zoning rules, with the intent to eventually approve marijuana retail operations that comply. “I don’t think it’s the intent of anybody to not allow it,” said Commissioner Doug England. “Whether or not we agree with the law isn’t the issue here,” said Commissioner Keith Goehner. “Our responsibility is to make sure Chelan County codes are cared for.”
Douglas County commissioners take a similar approach. The voters made the law, they said. Marijuana shops will be allowed where zoning accommodates them.
Admittedly, the entire process is fraught with legal uncertainty, but Wenatchee cannot ban marijuana from its jurisdiction any more effectively now than it could before the initiative passed. The voters legalized marijuana. The state has compiled the rules for retailers and growers. It will accept applications for retail licenses this month. It may issue a license for a store inside the city of Wenatchee. The stage then will be set for a legal quagmire and related expense.
It is heart-wrenching to hear the pleas of people fighting the effects of substance abuse, who wish Initiative 502 had never been. But, it cannot be undone. The voters have spoken, and eventually what they agreed to legalize will be legalized, whether we like it or not.
This is the opinion of The Wenatchee World and its Editorial Board: Publisher Rufus Woods, Editor Cal FitzSimmons and Editorial Page Editor Tracy Warner.