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Justice Department has options to crack down, but may galvanize the push for even wider legalization

In statements that were perhaps inevitable but nonetheless surprising to the cannabis industry, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on February 23, 2017, provided the first official comments on how the Trump administration may address recreational marijuana.

Responding to a question from an Arkansas reporter regarding medical marijuana, Spicer indicated that the Trump administration sees “a big difference” between medical and recreational marijuana, stating that federal law needs to be followed “when it comes to recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature.”

Spicer also indicated that enforcement decisions will primarily be a Department of Justice (“DOJ”) matter, stating that enforcement is “a question for the Department of Justice,” but that he believed there would be “greater enforcement of [federal law], because again, there’s a big difference between medical use, which Congress has, through an appropriations rider in 2014, made very clear what their intent was on how the Department of Justice would handle that issue,” which, Spicer stated, is “very different from the recreational use, which is something the Department of Justice will be further looking into.”

Although Spicer’s statements should probably not be considered as the Trump administration’s definitive policy statement on recreational marijuana use, they do raise a variety of concerns for cannabis businesses.

 

Thinking about opening a recreational store or medical cooperative in Tacoma? Better sit tight, at least for the time being.

On Tuesday, January 13, 2016, the Tacoma City Council passed a “temporary moratorium on new marijuana retail uses and a prohibition on the establishment of marijuana cooperatives.” Substitute Ordinance No. 28343.

From a practical perspective, this means that Tacoma will not accept or process applications for city licenses, or for land use, building, or other development permits.

The moratorium does not impact existing State- and city-licensed recreational marijuana retailers, which can continue to operate.

The Tacoma Planning Commission is currently revising the Land Use Regulatory and Nuisance Codes. The Commission is expected to forward recommendations to the City Council in March 2016.

The moratorium is set to expire within six months. Although the City Council could technically renew the moratorium, it apparently expects to lift the moratorium after voting on the amended Land Use and Nuisance Codes in April or May 2016.

This article was first published on GSB's Duff on Hospitality Law blog.

Since Washington voters passed I-502 in 2012, there has been much discussion concerning how hoteliers should respond to guests who seek to use (or are caught using) marijuana on a hotel property, either in a public area or in a guest room. Could a hotel even promote itself as friendly to marijuana tourists?

Use of marijuana in view of the general public remains illegal under state law and Liquor Control Board regulations have long required liquor licensees to conduct their licensed premises in compliance with such state drug laws.  Allowing guests to smoke anything, including marijuana, in public spaces may also violate public smoking laws and smoke-free workplace laws.  So, it was fairly clear that guests could not use marijuana in the public areas of a hotel, and a hotel could not allow guests to use marijuana (smoked or otherwise) in any public place.  But that left open the question of whether a hotel could allow guests to use marijuana in smoking-friendly rooms, either explicitly or simply by taking no affirmative action against use of marijuana in guest rooms.

Amended Liquor Control Board rules that went into effect earlier this year appear to answer this question with respect to properties with hotel liquor licenses.  WAC 314-11-015 addresses the responsibilities of all liquor licensees, including hotel licensees.  The amendments state that licensees and their employees may not:

Engage in or permit any employee or other person to engage in the consumption of any type of marijuana, usable marijuana, or marijuana-infused products in a liquor licensed business, including outdoor service areas or any part of the property owned or controlled by the licensee.

or

Permit any person consuming, or who has consumed within the licensed premises, any type of marijuana, usable marijuana, or marijuana-infused products to remain on any part of the licensed premises.

Licensed premises” includes all areas under the legal control of the licensee and available to or used by customers, which would include guest rooms.

It is unclear whether the Liquor Control Board intended these amendments to require hotels with premises licenses to exclude marijuana use in guest rooms and require licensed hotels to remove patrons who have used marijuana in guest rooms. However, as written, the amended rule states that a hotel licensee may not permit any person to consume marijuana in any part of the property owned or controlled by the licensee nor remain on any part of the licensed premises after consuming marijuana on the licensed premises.  The letter of these rules require licensed hotels to prohibit use of marijuana in all areas of their property, including guest rooms, and to remove patrons who are found to have consumed marijuana on their property.

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Since its founding in 1966, Garvey Schubert Barer has counseled clients across a broad range of industry sectors. Our attorneys have deep bench experience and significant expertise in both complex legal and business matters. We value innovation and entrepreneurship, and closely monitor industry trends. It is with these values in mind that our firm established the cannabis industry group. Read More ›

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