Lawsuits have been filed by medical marijuana dispensary owners, stakeholders and patients against the City of Seattle! The following are quotes taken from the press conference held on September 30th, 2015:
Washington legislation has effectively abolished medical marijuana by making it virtually impossible to find a doctor who is ready to sign the forms that are required, cutting off what people think is the “head of the snake”. People are not going to be able to get doctors’ authorizations any more under the new rules.
Washington’s Initiative 502 is now looked at around the country as what not to do when you legalize marijuana. We think the best thing to do is take this whole thing down to the ground; start over again and do it right. You know there is an old navy expression: “There is never enough time to do anything right the first time, but there is always enough time to do it right the second time.” Unfortunately, that may be true for us.
I’m Douglas Hiatt; Erin Kelley, Jeff Steinborn and myself filled a class action lawsuit with City of Seattle on Monday on behalf of our client, Columbia Holistic Health and the garden manager Erin Palmer. We had several causes of action against the city – three are primarily state law causes and there are two federal causes of action. The three state law causes are:
– The first cause of action is against the City of Seattle. All chapter 1 cities lack the authority under state law to regulate marijuana, tax marijuana, or do anything with marijuana other than enforce the criminal law. They simply have no regulatory authority and no ability to tax and that is in the city’s charter. That would apply to other first class charter cities; they simply do not hold the ability to regulate marijuana on their own and the ordinances that the city passed need be held void. We are going to seek injunctions preventing their enforcement until the courts find them void which we believe they will do.
– The second cause of action involves a case that has been decided in Spokane, Department of revenue VS Duncan, that basically said the state lacked the authority to tax marijuana because it met the exceptions for medicine from 2011-2014 when the state changed the law. That is essentially the time my client is being taxed on or imputed tax on and we expect that issue will go on to the Supreme Court. It is currently at division 3. We have raised that to preserve it for our clients.
– The third cause of action is that the City of Seattle is violating the federal drug free workplace act, which basically forbids the city from having any involvement with marijuana regulations and marijuana activities and forbids all employees from doing so. No matter if they are on their own time or government time, it is an illegal activity and they are risking forfeiting millions of dollars in federal grants.
– In addition to that there are two federal cause of action that we believe will be heard in the second case because we believe the state causes will be dispositive; but none-the-less we raised them for our clients those federal issues involve preemption issues over whether the state can tax marijuana at all, whether the state can force you to participate in tax collection schemes or imputation schemes that violate the 5th amendment. Those causes of action are currently at the Supreme Court in a case called Nickerson VS Inslee, which we are asking to court to stay those issues pending Supreme Court action.
Sean Badgly, Managing Partner of C3 Law Group:
We have filed a separate claim along with the other attorneys in the first action on one simple basis: Essentially, the mayor’s new plan is resulting in something we think is quite worrying: re-criminalization. The mayor’s office names this ordinance complying with state law. Our specific claims disagrees with this proposition, but in essence it is the re-criminalization that we are concerned about. We joined this lawsuit not lightly. This is a very important action and we felt that there is one basic proposition that should be upheld everywhere where cannabis is legal. Where cannabis is legal those who possess or otherwise participate in the cannabis market should not be considered or treated as a criminal. The mayor’s ordinance will seek to close at least 58 businesses, possibly many more. We feel this is wrong and we also feel that the mayor’s office issued business licenses in 2015 and now seeks to close these exact same businesses on the basis of operating an illegal entity. We feel this is wrong, we feel this is duplicitous and we intend to fight for patients’ rights.
Interview with Columbia Holistics (formerly operating at 12th & Jackson in Seattle):
Columbia Holistics: Basically the whole thing is unfair. We have been operating since before the time they implemented the grandfather clause. Medical marijuana built the market and now that they have it they are basically eliminating their competition. That’s basically what they did. They are using all sorts of crazy tactics.
Save WA MMJ: The lawyers mentioned that there were four different agencies targeting you? What were they?
Columbia Holistics: They were trying everything – zoning, the audit, the latest one was search warrant and police. They came out again. They asked us to do all this stuff and we did it. Then they came with the police.
Save WA MMJ: What did they use to justify that?
Columbia Holistics: Nothing! They came with the police and a search warrant, said get out of the way and cut open the safe. They also said we missed a couple semesters of city taxes. They are trying to embellish what I made by saying I have to pay taxes on 2 million dollars in sales over six months. I didn’t [make that much], that is not true.
We also have a 502 spot with an extractor. Somebody broke in and the police came. They took the extractor, then filed criminal charges against us. They have been coming at us from every way. I’m sure they are going to file criminal charges for that search warrant.
Coverage of the Lawsuits in the mainstream media:
The Stranger reports “Medical Marijuana Dispensaries File Suit in Response to City’s Crackdown“:
As part of Mayor Ed Murray’s plan to crack down on Seattle’s misbehaving medical marijuana dispensaries, the city has been conducting raids and surprise inspections at dispensaries that are considered “bad actors”—those that sell to minors or people who don’t qualify as medical patients, those that are being investigated by law enforcement or that didn’t have a business license before January 1, 2013, and others. Two of the targeted dispensaries—Columbia City Holistic Health and Better Day Gardens—have filed suit in response, alleging the city is violating federal laws by regulating the medical marijuana market and seeking injunctions allowing their shops to continue operating.
A second suit, filed by Sean Badgley of the C3 Law Group, alleges that the city misled dispensary owners by issuing them a 2015 business license and then passing an ordinance that forces them to close before the license’s expiration.
Komo news reports “Battle brewing between Seattle and pot shop owner“:
The owner of a West Seattle medical marijuana shop says he got a big surprise Tuesday morning when city officials showed up for a surprise inspection. “(They said) ‘if you don’t let us tour your facility we’re just going to revoke your business license and there’s nothing you can do about it,” said A.J. Cornwall, who runs the Better Day Gardens co-operative.
Unsure of his options, Cornwall called his attorney for advice. “Basically, I told them we weren’t going to be agreeing to any search like that and that they’d have to come back with a warrant if they wanted to do a search, and that’s what A.J. told them and they left,” said attorney Douglas Hiatt.
On Monday, Hiatt filed a complaint against the City of Seattle and Mayor Ed Murray accusing the city of “unconstitutionally assessing taxes and regulating marijuana.” “The fact of the matter is the city doesn’t have those rights, and that’s what this lawsuit is all about,” Hiatt said. “City of Seattle, you’ve got to stop. You can’t license marijuana, you can’t regulate it, you can’t tax it, and you can’t go and shut these people down. If you want to do that, you have to do it in the criminal courts.
Seattle’s deputy city attorney says they city received the lawsuit. He said the city believes its marijuana ordinances — which regulate medical marijuana — are constitutional and the city will defend them in court. A representative from the city echoed those claims, saying the regulations were “passed unanimously by City Council to ensure a safe, legal marijuana market.”
Hiatt doesn’t agree, saying the city needs to “stop this idiotic governmental action.” Cornwall said he believes regulating medical marijuana is necessary, but taking it away from people who have experience distributing it is an unfair move. “I would question why we’re putting tax dollars into stopping medical marijuana when we pay our taxes,” he said. “I’m a licensed business, I’ve been one since 2012 and we’re still putting funds toward stopping medical marijuana.”
A case is currently under way in the Superior Court of Thurston County, in which Mr. John Worthington is attempting to repeal i502. We will be posting more on this case in the future once official filed documents can be obtained (the document linked above is a draft, and is an un-filed version).