The Columbian / Associated Press

Sticky’s Pot Shop gets a reprieve in court ruling

The owner of Sticky’s Pot Shop, a cannabis retailer that was shuttered last year after defying Clark County’s ban on recreational weed businesses, said he will reopen the store after a recent victory in the ongoing legal conflict.

On Friday, Clark County Superior Court Judge Daniel Stahnke issued an order allowing Sticky’s, 9411 N.E. Highway 99 in Hazel Dell, to reopen for business while its owner, John Larson, appeals the county’s ban on recreational marijuana businesses in unincorporated areas.

The order requires Larson to file a $205,000 bond with the court before reopening the store. Mark Nelson, Larson’s attorney, said that the bond is intended to cover the $92,000 in fines the company has already accrued for defying the ban and to cover the additional penalties and costs it would owe the county if it loses its appeal.

“This is an important issue that goes beyond just Sticky’s and one that will have an impact on many other licensees and business owners throughout the state,” Larson wrote in an emailed response to questions.

Larson wrote that he expects to file the bond this week and that the store will be in the same location. According to Larson, it will take time to get the store running again and he didn’t have exact dates for its soft and grand openings.

In December 2015, Larson opened the store under the name Emerald Enterprises LLC. After opening he ran into Clark County’s prohibitions on such businesses, facing fines and a revocation of the shop’s building permit. In September 2016, the store shut its doors after Stahnke denied Larson’s request and ordered the defiant business to close.

In February 2017, Larson appealed Clark County’s pot shop ban to the Washington State Court of Appeals, Division II. Larson’s case concerns an ongoing legal dispute that’s arisen since Washington voted to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012: whether local jurisdictions can pass restrictions on cannabis-oriented businesses. According to the Municipal Research and Services Center, 86 cities and counties in Washington have either moratoriums or prohibitions on state-licensed marijuana businesses.

Nelson, in his brief filed on behalf of Larson, argues that prohibitions on marijuana shops by local governments are illegal. He points to a section of the state constitution that blocks local jurisdictions from passing ordinances that violate state law and argues that the initiative that legalized marijuana doesn’t provide counties and cities with a mechanism to prohibit pot shops.

The state Attorney General’s office has taken a different stance arguing that nothing in the marijuana legalization initiative overrides the ability of local governments to regulate or ban these businesses.

“The jury is still out if those bans are constitutional and that’s what we are waiting to hear from Division II,” said Nelson, who expects a decision next year.

Nelson said that the process in this case has been particularly delayed. In May, the Washington State Court of Appeals, Division II issued an order directing Clark County Superior Court to allow Sticky’s to open until the appeal has been settled.

County Council Chair Marc Boldt said that the order puts the county in a relatively good position.

“It really puts (Larson) in jeopardy because if we do win he will have to pay all this money,” said Boldt. “And it in a way it’s easier for the county so we don’t have to go after the property.”

He said that if the county loses the case the council will revisit its ban, which he said there has already been some talk of regardless.

County Councilor Julie Olson, whose district encompasses the shop, said she’s not immediately worried by Sticky’s reopening. She said she doesn’t have strong feelings either way regarding the ban and is open to revising it. But she said any decision would need to be informed by data on legal marijuana’s impact on youth, law enforcement and public health.

“I don’t want to make decisions on anecdotal stories,” she said. “Everyone’s got one.”