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Sticky’s Pot Shop to close

After state Supreme Court decides not to hear case, owner will now appeal to voters

By , Columbian staff writer
Published: July 12, 2018, 8:14pm
4 Photos
Jessie Leonetti, a budtender at Sticky’s Pot Shop, paints a sale announcement on the store’s window. The Hazel Dell pot shop will close soon after the state Supreme Court declined to hear their appeal to lift the ban on recreational marijuana sales in unincorporated Clark County. (Nathan Howard/The Columbian)
Jessie Leonetti, a budtender at Sticky’s Pot Shop, paints a sale announcement on the store’s window. The Hazel Dell pot shop will close soon after the state Supreme Court declined to hear their appeal to lift the ban on recreational marijuana sales in unincorporated Clark County. (Nathan Howard/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The case for Sticky’s Pot Shop officially ended this week, but the Hazel Dell shop’s owner now wants to make one final appeal: to the voters.

On Wednesday, the state Supreme Court declined to hear a case led by Sticky’s that would have lifted the ban on recreational marijuana sales in unincorporated Clark County. The move affirms a decision from the Washington Court of Appeals, Division II, that upheld the ban.

After nearly four years in court, the move clears a path for Clark County to shut down Sticky’s. Bill Richardson, civil deputy prosecutor for the county, said the county is waiting for the proper paperwork to be filed at the appeals court before the closure can start.

“I would assume within a week’s time it should be out and ready to go,” he said.

Emerald Enterprises, which owns Sticky’s, first tried in 2014 to operate a marijuana shop in Hazel Dell. It has repeatedly appealed through the courts, but the state Supreme Court was its last chance — unless Clark County itself lifts its ban.

Washington voters legalized the sale of recreational marijuana in 2012 with the passage of Initiative 502. Whether local governments can continue to ban the sale in their jurisdictions was not made clear, but it had been the opinion of lawmakers, law enforcement officials and now the courts that it was within local officials’ power to impose bans.

“We have exhausted all possible appeals. While we are disappointed and disagree with the court’s decision not to hear our case, we will comply with the court order and are working with the county to close the store in an orderly manner,” wrote owner John Larson in a statement.

Still, with its final days looming, Sticky’s opened Thursday with red window paint advertising a steep clearance sale and a message for customers and passers-by to get active if they hope to see the ban lifted. Employees who checked IDs at the door also offered flyers urging people to register for the upcoming election. Two county council seats and the chair are up for re-election this November.

“We want to thank the people of Hazel Dell and Clark County for their support,” Larson’s statement said. “We ask them to contact the Clark County Council and tell them what they think. VOTE Nov. 6th.”

The County Council has considered lifting its ban on recreational marijuana businesses but didn’t move forward. Council Chair Marc Boldt had initially expressed some support for lifting the ban but reversed himself after hearing from law enforcement, addiction specialists and others who opposed the move.

“I’m happy for the settlement finally getting over,” he said, adding that the ruling is also a relief for other counties in Washington who have been uncertain how much authority they had in regulating cannabis business.

Big fines

Sticky’s isn’t quite out of court yet, either. Sticky’s technically incurred a fine $500 for every day that it opened its doors against county law, Richardson said. Since March 2016, that would amount to about $400,000 in fines. Sticky’s paid $205,000 of that last summer to reopen. Richardson said the county plans to pursue the remaining fines.

“We are going to go back and add up all these penalties for the number of days … and we’re going to ask the Superior Court to give us those penalties,” Richardson said.

According to the marijuana industry tracking website 502data.com, Sticky’s has sold close to $2 million before taxes since March 2016.

Nick Sorenson, general manager, insisted that it’s the staff who will take the biggest hits. Sixteen workers are set to be out of a job, including 33-year-old Holly Matheney, who now wonders how she will make payments on a recently bought house.

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“I will come back when we reopen — not if we reopen — but it doesn’t change the fact that I just bought a house (that costs) $1,800 a month,” she said.

Many customers on Thursday felt the same way. Kim Thornton, a La Center woman who works at a nearby gas station, said she plans to vote and write letters to county councilors. And Guy Platt, a 46-year-old Vancouver resident who works in Portland, said he just didn’t understand why the ban was still in place.

“It seems like they ought to be happy for the tax money. It’s not hurting anybody. I’ve been smoking for 30 years, and I’m a productive member of society. What’s the problem?”

Staff writer Jake Thomas contributed to this story.

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