RETHINKING POT-LOCAL BANS
Washington city fights to keep legal marijuana out
TACOMA, Wash. (AP) - A lawyer for a man who wants to open a marijuana shop in the small Washington city of Fife is asking a judge to strike down its ban on marijuana businesses.
The Tacoma suburb is fighting before a judge Friday for its right to remain free of pot businesses, even though such enterprises are now allowed by state law.
The case could have big implications for Washington's experiment in taxed, regulated marijuana.
Voters legalized pot for adults over 21 in 2012 and decided to establish a system of licensed marijuana growers, processors and sellers.
The city argues that Washington's law doesn't override local zoning authority. But if it does, the city also wants Pierce County Superior Court Judge Ronald Culpepper to find that Washington's entire legal pot scheme should be thrown out as incompatible with marijuana's prohibition under federal law.
Lawyer asks Supreme Court to deny 120-day delay
SEATTLE (AP) - A lawyer representing mentally ill patients who were "warehoused" in emergency rooms because no beds were available in treatment facilities is urging the state Supreme Court to reject the state's request for a 120-day delay of a ban on the practice of "psychiatric boarding."
Jennifer Sweigert told the court Friday that the state has had more than a year to find beds for people held in emergency rooms under the Involuntary Treatment Act, which permits detention of people who are a threat to themselves or others "for the purpose of providing mental health treatment."
The court ruled on Aug. 7 that boarding in ERs because of overcrowding in treatment centers is not allowed. It ordered the state to stop the practice but the state asked for a delay. The court is set to consider both sides next Thursday.
Problems at state health exchange hit 1 out of 5
SEATTLE (AP) - Officials at the Washington health exchange admitted this week that billing problems have affected about one of every five people who bought health insurance through the exchange.
At a board meeting on Thursday, exchange officials said as many as 28,000 people trying to buy insurance through the exchange were unable to use that insurance during the past seven months because of billing problems.
The Seattle Times reports associate operations director Brad Finnegan says problems have been fixed for about 21,600 individuals. He believes most of the others will be fixed before September begins.
Meanwhile, the board adopted a preliminary budget on Thursday. They are asking the governor and the Legislature to allow them to spend almost $20 million more in 2015 than the $40 million the Legislature has already approved. Most of this money is expected to come from more people signing up for health insurance.
State to halt hunt this weekend
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - The state Department of Fish and Wildlife will suspend its hunt for three more members of the Huckleberry wolf pack for the Labor Day weekend.
Hunters contracted by the state for the past week have been trying to kill a total of four members of the pack in order to protect a herd of 1,800 sheep the wolves have been preying upon. One wolf was shot and killed by a hunter in a helicopter on Aug. 22.
The state says at least 24 sheep have been killed in eight confirmed wolf attacks on the herd in southern Stevens County since Aug. 14.
Officials for DFW say they have suspended efforts to hunt or trap the wolves in order to avoid conflicts with Labor Day recreationists and grouse hunters.
Energy Department to pay $23M in damages
RICHLAND, Wash. (AP) - The U.S. Department of Energy has agreed to pay Energy Northwest $23.6 million in damages for its failure to accept used nuclear fuel.
The Tri-City Herald reports the Energy Department also agreed to an annual claims process to continue to pay costs through 2016.
Energy Northwest operates the state's only nuclear power plant, located on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near the Tri-Cities.
FATAL BIKE ACCIDENT
Woman dies in downtown Seattle bike-truck accident
SEATTLE (AP) - Seattle Police say a woman on a bicycle died Friday morning after being hit by a large truck in downtown Seattle.
Police say the truck was headed south on Second Avenue and turned left onto University Street, where it hit and fatally injured the cyclist.
The Seattle Department of Transportation says University Street between Second and Third avenues was closed for the investigation.
Competency check for teen accused in girl's death
PORT ORCHARD, Wash. (AP) - Kitsap County prosecutors say a 17-year-old accused in the rape and killing of 6-year-old Jenise Wright will be evaluated next week to see if he's competent to stand trial.
The Kitsap Sun reports Gabriel Gaeta made a brief appearance in Kitsap County Superior Court on Thursday. At that hearing, Deputy Prosecutor Kelly Montgomery told Judge Jennifer Forbes that Gaeta will be evaluated by doctors Tuesday to determine if he understands the charges against him and can assist lawyers in his defense.
He has been held in the Kitsap County Juvenile Detention Center on $1 million bail since his arrest Aug. 9.
He's being held on investigation of first-degree murder and first-degree child rape. Once the competency evaluation is complete, prosecutors will make a decision on charging him.
Rehabilitated bear released back into the wild
MONROE, Wash. (AP) - An underweight black bear that used to live off a Redmond family's bird feeder has been rehabilitated and released back into the wild.
KOMO-TV reports the 1-year-old bear weighed around 45 pounds when it was captured in June, about half the expected weight for a bear of that age.
During rehab, naturalists reintroduced the bear to its native diet of skunk cabbage and berries. Then the bear was driven 60 miles from the PAWS office in Lynnwood into a remote mountainous area along the Cascades.
Before leaving the bear on Thursday, officers fired a non-lethal bean bag shot at the animal and shouted, "Get out of here bear."
They say that less than eight seconds after the trap opened the bear had vanished into the wild..
County opens door to Gorge expansion
EPHRATA, Wash. (AP) - The Grant County commissioners have approved a zoning change that opens the door for The Gorge Amphitheatre to expand.
Live Nation, which owns The Gorge, still needs to obtain additional approval from the county's planning department.
The Columbia Basin Herald says the county commission's approval on Tuesday came despite opposition by The Gorge's neighbors. It also follows a recent study that shows Live Nation is one of the top taxpaying businesses in Grant County.
Neighbors have complained about rowdy concertgoers trespassing, littering and vandalizing their homes and farms. But no residents spoke against the expansion during Tuesday's meeting.
Owners of The Gorge hope to add 1,000 camping sites, a café, an outdoor cinema, a farmer's market as well as water, road and sewage improvements.
Leader of Bakken drug ring gets 20 years prison
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - A Montana judge has sentenced the leader of an interstate drug ring to 20 years in prison for his role in a trafficking operation that stretched from western Washington to the Bakken oil fields of the Northern Plains.
In a sentencing hearing Friday, U.S. District Judge Susan Watters described Robert Farrell Armstrong as a long-time criminal and a danger to society.
In a deal with prosecutors, the Moses Lake, Washington, man pleaded guilty in January to a single count of possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute.
Watters said Armstrong preyed upon addicts in the Montana-North Dakota oil patch to build up a network of dealers and armed enforcers.
Authorities say the drug ring moved as much as a pound of meth a week before it was busted up last year.
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