Ground Zero For Washington Pot Wars: Fife, Wash., Pop. 9,421

Aug 11, 2014

The Poodle Dog diner in Fife, Wash., is a site for debate about whether the city should ban marijuana business.
The Poodle Dog diner in Fife, Wash., is a site for debate about whether the city should ban marijuana business.
Credit Flickr Photo/Great Beyond (CC-BY-NC-ND)

This July, the Fife City Council prohibited all marijuana business inside Fife city limits.

That ban has been challenged by State Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the ACLU. The Fife case has a hearing in Pierce County Superior Court at the end of this month. It could end up in Supreme Court by the end of the year.

KUOW reporter Posey Gruener has more.

TRANSCRIPT

The City of Fife covers four square miles of Pierce County, just south of the Port of Tacoma.

It's a sort of between-places place, cut through by 1-5, 99, and the rail yards. It's best known for car dealerships, the Emerald Queen Casino and, lately, for pot.

Or, specifically, for banning it.

Fife isn't the first city in Washington to ban marijuana businesses, but they are the first to argue that federal law should trump state law.

That logic, taken far enough, could pull the rug out from under legalized marijuana in Washington.

Fife City Attorney Loren Combs says that wasn't the intention.

Combs: “We're not out to change the world, we're out to uphold what our City Council has said should be the rules within the jurisdiction of the city of Fife. I'll leave others to fight the dragons, we're just trying to uphold the laws of the city of Fife.”

To see what the people of Fife thought about the drama around the new law, I went down to the Poodle Dog, a classic mid-century diner down on 99.

The diners there weren't aware that Fife had just stepped into the spotlight. But they did have opinions about the ban.

In the parking lot, I spoke to a man named Kim, who rode in on his motorcycle to meet friends for lunch. Kim thought the council's ban was silly and not at all surprising.

Kim: “Fife's just kind of a joke. They're archaic. In everything they do and think.”

An older woman named Ruthie spoke to me near the entrance, while she waited for her husband to bring the car around.

Ruthie: “I don't think it should be legalized, period. I just don't.”

And outside the Pup Room, just beside the Poodle Dog, a group of well-dressed men in their 80s hung around, leaning on their canes and smoking. They thought it was just a matter of time.

Bill, Frank, Ron, and Bob: “It's going to end up, it's going to happen — prohibition is even — this is silly. Pot was legal until 1938! All you have to do is figure out how to get some money out of it.

“We had a drug too, when we were kids, it was called alcohol. Underground is not new, it's been around a long, long time.”

Like all the other Poodle Dog patrons, they declined to give their last names. Marijuana may be legal, but it's still controversial.

For KUOW, I'm Posey Gruener.