Judge rejects pot biz owners' request to stay anonymous

Judge rejects pot biz owners' request to stay anonymous »Play Video
In this Oct. 10, 2012 file photo, marijuana is weighed and packaged for sale at the Northwest Patient Resource Center medical marijuana dispensary in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
SEATTLE -- Now that some marijuana use is legal in Washington state, cities have been trying to force pot business owners to start paying taxes.

But some of those business owners went to court, fearing the feds and fighting to stay anonymous.

Attorney Douglas Hiatt says the state's laws on medical and recreational use of marijuana still do not supersede the federal ban on all pot use.

"And if it's illegal, you can't regulate it, you can't tax it, you can't zone it," Hiatt said. "You can't do any of the things the city is trying to do."

The city of Seattle says now that some use of pot is legal under state law, those with marijuana-related businesses have to start paying taxes, register, and get a business license; they can't be exempt.

But Hiatt says that would require business owners to incriminate themselves, declaring for the record that they are breaking federal law.

"When someone fills out a business license -- someone who wants a marijuana business in the city, they don't think they are creating literally 'exhibit one' for a federal criminal court case," he said.

Whether or not that's true, the city said it can't exempt those businesses. As a result, 13 marijuana business owners hired a lawyer and sued the city.

And that's when things got really interesting.

The businesses asked the judge to grant them anonymity in this lawsuit and trial, since that's the whole point here; they're fighting against going public, getting nailed by the feds.

But the judge rejected their request.

The ruling comes on the very day the Pres. Barack Obama, during an interview with Barbara Walters, said the federal government will not fight Washington's marijuana laws.

"It does not make sense from a prioritization point of view for us to focus on recreational drug users," he said.

For now, at least one marijuana business owner must put his name on the lawsuit in the fight to remain anonymous. The owner of a medical marijuana nonprofit business on Capitol Hill said he is ready to put his name on the lawsuit in order to get the issue settled.