By Gradi Jordan
What do the Washington towns of Tacoma, Tonasket, and now Twisp have in common? The House of Cannabis! This past September, the veteran owned House of Cannabis expanded to Twisp, which was actually a relocation of their second license (initially located in Carlton, eight miles to the north).
While located at their former creation for their medical collective at 6th and Proctor (the Tacoma Holistic Collective) and upon the implementation of i-502, they licensed both Tacoma and Carlton within a month of each other. Carlton was actually the first eligible to open, however they waited four months in order to open their Tacoma dispensary first, located at 2632 S. 38th St. (http://tacomahouseofcannabis.com/)
We spoke with one of the owners of the House of Cannabis, Kevin Heiderich, who told us the story of this popular retail shop.
It starts in Carlton, which, although is only eight miles south, is not a highly populated area on a much less traveled state road. The landlord at the Carlton General Store (the building in which they had contracted with) changed his long-term plans and asked them to look for a new home. After two years in business at the Carlton spot, it was time to move the House of Cannabis.
They submitted a license application to the Liquor and Cannabis Board of Washington state (WSLCB) for their new address at 1017 E. Methow Valley Highway in Twisp (http://twisp.tacomahouseofcannabis.com) which is located behind an organic food plant nursery, Yard Food https://www.facebook.com/tesshoke/.
The WSLCB vetted the address in accordance with its mandates with regard to proximity to sensitive uses in the Twisp area. When the application was submitted, they were aware that there was a K-12 private Christian school on the grounds of the Cascade Bible Church, across the street from the proposed store. They also were aware that it was not certified by the Superintendent of Public Instruction of Washington State, meaning that the school does not qualify under the State law as a school.
Kevin went on to say, “The state vetted the address as good, while the church used its 14 day window to make public comment to convince 27 individuals to send letters to the WSLCB requesting they deny the application due to the proximity of the school. The state reviewed the objections and summarily dismissed the majority for being based completely on hearsay and denied the other objections as focused on a school that doesn’t meet the definition. The town of Twisp also objected based on the school proximity.”
Despite these protests, the shop owners filed an application for a city business license at that address, which the town approved contingent on the issuance of the WSLCB license to sell cannabis.
Kevin believes the city was a bit surprised that they were able to obtain a final inspection and license, and believes they are actually quite happy that they were able to open.
Despite receiving their city business license and state cannabis retail license, the church wasn’t finished with their protestations. They filed suit in the Superior Court of Okanogan County alleging that the state has not done its due diligence, and that the cannabis store would be too close to their “school,” a playground on the premises (some unused little tikes plastic play structures), and that they had a community recreation center on the grounds open to the public. They further alleged that the WSLCB didn’t have the authority to issue the license next door to these facilities. They named Endicott Enterprises and the WSLCB as respondents on the filing for a preliminary injunction for the issuance of their license.
According to Kevin, they went to court in early August, appearing before Judge Rawson with their counsel, Erin McCool from Ogden, Murphy, Wallace PLLC in Wenatchee. The church retained an attorney named Michael Brady, from Winthrop. Kellen Wright represented the State of Washington, and the WSLCB, as a member of the Attorney General’s office.
After opening discussion, the Judge asked some questions around the intersection of codified law, precedent, entity organization structure surrounding churches in Washington State, and an examination of administrative rights of appeal for the church the judge determined several items.
First, the WSLCB had authority. Second, the school, recreation center, and playground didn’t qualify under the law. The school wasn’t certified, the recreation center didn’t meet the definition of a public recreation center with a broad range of activities primarily geared toward youth in a supervised capacity, and the playground wasn’t available to the public, nor a permanent structure.
Further, the judge determined that the church had not exhausted the path to administrative relief, and that the church needed to request an administrative hearing from the WSLCB.
They did request that hearing, while the House of Cannabis was open during the intermediate as the injunction was denied. Moving eight miles north from Carlton on SR-153 to Twisp on SR-20 doubled House of Cannabis’ location revenue, overnight.
The church failed to submit their answers before the deadline for their administrative hearing, filing 14 days too late (approximately 45 days after the hearing), and as they missed the deadline and failed to make the administrative hearing, decided to appeal to the State Court of Appeals, Division III, in Spokane.
That’s where they currently sit. It seems the best advice to give any cannabis business considering expansion is to obtain a good, experienced legal team. The market is there; it’s a matter of cutting through the remaining red tape. But this case is a good example of follow through and the proper way to double your business overnight.
Gradi Jordan is a mom, cannabis job connector, marijuana curator, edible creator, writer and educator. Learn more about her and her work at https://pinkboots420.com.