EDITORIAL | County made right move with pot shops

It’s not official, but chances are good that South Whidbey will become home to two of Island County’s new retail marijuana stores.

South End business owners Maureen Cooke and Lucas Jushinski have both submitted applications to the state to open shops in Bayview and Freeland. Yet ironically, despite the passage of I-502 in 2012, it appears these early entrepreneurs will owe their existence — if they are successfully permitted — to Island County commissioners Helen Price Johnson, a South Whidbey Democrat, and Jill Johnson, a Oak Harbor Republican.

Last week they rejected a last minute proposal from former commissioner Kelly Emerson, a Tea Party Republican from Camano who has since resigned, to permanently ban pot shops in Island County, and they were right to do so.

The people of Washington made their choice clear in 2012 when they voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana statewide. Just like any other ballot measure or race for elected office, adult voters considered what was in front, of them and made a choice, and it’s not  governments role to later decide otherwise. We grant our elected leaders power to implement our wishes, not countermand them.

Yet a small handful of county and city governments, such as  Pierce County, Monroe and most recently Marysville, have since taken it upon themselves to do just that and adopt permanent prohibitions. In Marysville’s case, city leaders argued that restrictions concerning location, coupled with the flow of tax revenue — most would go to the state, not local municipalities — equaled an industry that might cause more harm than good.

According to state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, and a non-binding decision he issued earlier this year, cities and counties are within their legal rights to pass such bans despite the wishes of the pubic.

Every community is different, and perhaps for some outlawing marijuana stores really does make sense, but that’s not the case in Island County, at least not according to voters. I-502 passed statewide, but also here at home with 56 percent of the public — 23,205 people — casting “yes” votes.

The commissioners showed wisdom and courage by not falling prey to the weighty and seemingly never-ending “pot is bad” arguments. Some of those concerns are very valid, others not so much. What matters most here is that our elected officials put aside any personal convictions or opinions on the issue and carried out the wishes of their constituents.

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