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SEATTLE -- Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson says cities and counties can block licensed marijuana businesses from operating.

In a long-awaited opinion Thursday, Ferguson says the state's legal marijuana law, Initiative 502, leaves local governments the option of adopting moratoriums or bans that prohibit licensed grow operations, processing facilities or retail shops from their jurisdictions.

The opinion was requested by the Washington Liquor Control Board, which has been concerned that such local bans could restrict access to legal marijuana and make it difficult to move people away from the black market.

In Clark County, commission chairman Tom Mielke wants to put off retail sales until the federal government takes cannabis off its illegal drug list. He does not want pot sold at retail stores in the county.

Mielke said he doesn t like the fact that tax money from pot sales will go to the state but not Clark County. He said the board will lay the ground work for sales but not support them, yet. The vote legalizing pot sales narrowly failed in Clark County by a vote of 94,586 against and 93,376 in support. But the issue won statewide.

Supporters don t like the potential delay.

Background: Clark Co. commission may block pot sales

Elsewhere, some jurisdictions, including unincorporated Pierce County, Lakewood and Wenatchee, already have effective bans on pot businesses, because their local ordinances require businesses to follow state, federal and local law, and marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Nearly three dozen of Washington state's 75 biggest cities, from Redmond to Pullman, have adopted moratoriums of up to a year on marijuana businesses.

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