Marijuana Sales Moratoriums and Bans Could Lead to Lawsuits - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Marijuana Sales Moratoriums and Bans Could Lead to Lawsuits

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The legalization of recreational marijuana could lead to lawsuits and tax payers picking up the bill for court costs. The legalization of recreational marijuana could lead to lawsuits and tax payers picking up the bill for court costs.

KENNEWICK, WA - The legalization of recreational marijuana could lead to lawsuits and tax payers picking up the bill for court costs.

Many local cities have moratoriums delaying retail sales of marijuana, but the decisions these cities are making differ from the state's rules on marijuana sales.

NBC Right Now spoke with Kennewick's city attorney, Lisa Beaton, and discovered marijuana moratoriums may protect a city from lawsuits, but likely won't stop legal action from heading our way.

"It doesn't prevent people from suing cities. People sue cities all the time," said Beaton.

"We do believe that there will be lawsuits filed. Can they file against those with moratoriums? Certainly they could. But more likely they're going to go to those who banned it all together," said Kennewick Mayor Steve Young.

The legal matters of marijuana sales at the state and city levels are a little hazy right now.

Kennewick is one of several cities with a moratorium on marijuana sales and the 12 month delay would temporarily prevent someone from acquiring a license to sell there.

The conflict between state and city approval could lead to lawsuits. But a moratorium provides more protection than a permanent ban on pot sales.

"If they wanted to they wouldn't be successful because the law allows the city to adopt a moratorium for this particular reason to give the city time to determine what to do with the use. When granted that specific authority and you follow the requirements on the statute, the city is in a good position," Beaton said.

Avoiding legal troubles is a priority for the city when it comes to the uncertainty of recreational marijuana.

"Our position in the city of Kennewick and I believe the other cities in this area is that we don't want to take citizens money, tax dollars, to litigation and pay for court costs. We want to wait and see what the final outcome is at the supreme court level," Young said.

Kennewick's marijuana moratorium will last until October.

For now, the city is looking for more answers from the Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson on the city's ability to regulate marijuana sales and more than just a verbal statement from the federal government about the nationally illegal substance.

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