Pubdate: Sun, 08 Feb 2015
Source: Yakima Herald-Republic (WA)
Copyright: 2015 Yakima Herald-Republic


About a year ago, the Yakima City Council heard accusations of
hypocrisy as it supported a request by the Association of Washington
Cities for the state to share recreational marijuana taxes with
cities. The council's move came just weeks after the City Council had
voted to ban marijuana businesses, and critics said the city can't
have it both ways.

But the city -- and the association -- argued that with the drug being
legal after voters approved Initiative 502, the city faced increased
law enforcement needs to combat offenses such as driving under the
influence and minors in possession. Our position was that cities like
Yakima needed to document the extra law enforcement and health care
costs if it wanted a piece of the revenue pie.

A battle on a different front is breaking out in the Legislature,
where bills have been introduced under which the state would share
marijuana tax revenue with cities and counties, but only if they
allowed marijuana businesses in their jurisdictions. This bill is
patterned after a law in Colorado, where voters joined Washington in
legalizing recreational marijuana back in 2012.

At present, all the money goes to the state, primarily for health,
prevention and treatment purposes. No money is designated for cities
and counties. Supporters say legislation that dangles the carrot of
dollar signs could move cautious elected officials toward approval of
pot facilities; they say it has worked this way in Colorado.

It might work in places where the governments have banned pot
businesses despite the issue having won majority approval of voters.
This has occurred in Western Washington; in Central and Eastern
Washington, the bans largely reflect the will of the voters.

The legislation misses one major point: Potential problems with pot
don't stop at municipal boundaries. Someone could purchase a marijuana
product in Union Gap, where it is legal, consume it in another
jurisdiction and then drive under the influence anywhere in Yakima
County. That DUI then becomes the problem of someplace else, not Union
Gap. The same could happen with a drug overdose or any number of
associated problems.

So the advice of a year ago also holds with the legislation of 2015.
Cities and counties that ban pot aren't necessarily entitled to a
share of revenue that other cities generate, but neither should they
be denied help with a problem that stems from other jurisdictions. And
as in last year's request to share revenue, the municipalities need to
document the cost that they incur from legalized pot.

Supporters no doubt view the legislation as a carrot to encourage
cities and counties to loosen their bans, but it comes off more as a
stick to whip insolent municipalities into line. Those cities and
counties shouldn't benefit from a policy they haven't approved, but
neither should they be punished for dealing with problems not of their
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt