As Lakewood’s (Washington) Planning Commission reviews early in this new year possible locations for retail marijuana (MJ) businesses in the city, here following in this first installment of a series are reasons why ‘turning over a new (marijuana) leaf’ – an idiom normally associated with a change for the better – is a New Year’s Resolution best left to die on the vine.
It has long been the position of Lakewood to deny the business license applications of would-be MJ retailors, those denials “upheld by the City’s Hearing Examiner.”
Lakewood has consistently maintained that those denials are in keeping with federal prohibitions of such businesses.
Now that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has allowed federal prosecutors to crack down on cannabis in states like Washington, will Lakewood continue to resist reefer madness before it was cool?
There are cracks appearing in the wall Lakewood has erected that has served so far to keep purveyors of pot from pillaging the city. No thanks to remonstrations from without, however, and reconsiderations from within, the city’s perennial protestations of pot proprietors setting up shop locally may soon be a thing of the past.
The Tacoma News Tribune Editorial Board (TNT, January 31, 2017) – as an example of a rather obnoxious outsider’s attempt to knock Lakewood off the so-called “fence of indecision” with regards MJ – says Lakewood’s denial of these licenses based on federal law “looks like an attempt to weasel out of making a hard call.”
Bringing heavy-hitter state Rep. David Sawyer, D-Parkland, to the plate, the TNT cited Sawyer and fellow sluggers Reps. Steve Kirby, D-Tacoma, and Cary Condotta, R-Chelan, as having created House Bill 1099 that would have forced Lakewood to “take an official stance on retail pot or forgo 70 percent of state distributed liquor revenues.”
To this “legislative shove,” as the TNT called it, Lakewood never even bothered to respond let alone protest down in Olympia, perhaps believing Sawyer and friends were not worthy advisories. In any case ‘the bigger bully bill’ reportedly never got out of committee, let alone to the house floor for a vote.
But that didn’t stop the TNT from even going so far as to recommend Lakewood jettison whatever principles and values city leaders might believe are pertinent to such decisions and go to pot because everybody else is doin’ it – a rather juvenile follow-the-herd rationale that in sad-to-see days gone by earned us a stand-in-the-corner time-out lecture from parents who wanted to make sure we heard that our choices should reflect we had a stand-alone backbone where so many have a cave-to-the-crowd wishbone.
Even in endorsing the ultimately successful Lakewood City Councilmember incumbent John Simpson in the recent election, the TNT wrote that Simpson, after all, “would vote to allow retail marijuana.”
According to Simpson, at least according to the TNT, he “would vote to allow retail marijuana in Lakewood not because he personally supports pot sales but because voters have spoken.”
At the Tillicum Woodbrook Neighborhood Association meeting just this January 4, Simpson reiterated his position.
“Who the hell am I,” Simpson asked, “to deny that for which the people have voted?”
That’s a good question.
It may be argued that when Washington passed Initiative 502 in 2012, voters understood the measure was for decriminalizing MJ. Indeed, Part I, Section 1 “Intent” of the bill filed July 8, 2011 reads “Be it enacted by the people of the State of Washington (that) The people intend to stop treating adult marijuana use as a crime.”
Post-I-502, when given an opportunity to provide feedback by way of advisory ballot measures offered by leaders in local jurisdictions as to the desire of residents to see retail MJ shops within their neighborhoods, the people – even though having voted for I-502 – opposed such operations anywhere in their geographical boundaries, most by a significant margin.
In addition to those referenced in the link provided in the previous paragraph, the following ‘realms’ where reefer retail was roundly rejected were the Cities of Snohomish (70% against); Bonney Lake (64% against); and Yakima County (59% against), the votes in each case reflecting a rather emphatic repulsion of the marijuana industry invaders.
For Simpson, et al, to claim Lakewood “voters have spoken” without an advisory vote as other cities and counties have done, hearkens back to the early days in Lakewood’s incorporation history.
“Those who cannot remember the past,” said George Santayna (1905), “are condemned to repeat it.” What the people of Lakewood are fighting for now, the people of Lakewood fought for then.
The precursor to The Suburban Times was the American Community Journal, edited by Ed Kane. In the February 2003 edition, Kane wrote, “For the entire history of Lakewood as a city (incorporated 1996), say frustrated movement organizers, the council has steadfastly refused to reach out and feel the pulse of the people.”
The movement Kane references was a push by the people for the rights of Initiative and Referendum (I&R).
The city balked.
All seven pages, for example, of the February 10, 2003 transcript of the City Council’s study session are permeated not with concerns that the council might be preventing citizens the exercise of voting privilege, but rather fearing what might transpire had the people the right to vote via I&R.
Then, as now with regards the MJ issue or for that matter the Rental Housing Safety Program, there were those who countered “that on issues of the magnitude that can adversely impact quality of life or violate perceived moral values of the community, the citizens should have a direct say, individual by individual, through the voting process or, at a minimum, a poll of opinions,” (ACJ, February 2003).
On March 3, 2003, Councilmember Pad Finnigan made a motion that the council “instruct the staff to prepare a resolution to approve initiatives and referendum for the city of Lakewood.”
Though then-councilwoman Helen McGovern referred to movement organizers as “a few angry citizens” unhappy with council decisions, John Simpson, in seconding Finnigan’s motion said then what should come back to haunt him now as to who should make decisions of such import – in this case the current battle concerning marijuana.
From the transcript of that March 3, 2003 council session, Lakewood Councilman John Simpson said:
“In listening to this and thinking about this, I’m reminded of what Thomas Jefferson said, in that the voice of the people must clearly be heard in order for democracy to work. The issue is that, do the people have a voice when they wish to express their opinion to the city government? And that’s why I think we should move toward a resolution” (in favor of I&R).
That was 2003.
Finally, after much hue and cry, on the November ballot, 2005, the Lakewood City Council relented and allowed an advisory vote whether to permit or reject the right of the people – a right enjoyed by the top tier of Washington cities – to directly propose legislation or overturn decisions of the city council – Initiative and Referendum, respectively.
In one of the largest landslides in Lakewood’s voting history – before or since, including even votes cast for unchallenged city council incumbents – the people of Lakewood voted 8,193 to 3,092, a whopping 70 percent in favor – to take their rightful place as master, not servant, and join the ranks of those for whom “the first power (is) reserved by the people: the initiative,” the second being referendum (Amendment 72, 1981, Substitute Senate Joint Resolution No.133, p.1796, Approved November 3, 1981).
The Lakewood City Council was wrong then.
And if an advisory vote is not in Lakewood’s immediate future with regards marijuana, then the Lakewood City Council is wrong now.
There is absolutely no legitimate way the Lakewood City Council can say – certainly not in good conscience – to use the words of Councilmember John Simpson himself or Thomas Jefferson for that matter, that, given the case presented here as to marijuana: “the voice of the people has clearly been heard.”
Not without an advisory vote.