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Jan. 22, 2021

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Cannabis retailers aim for unincorporated Clark County

Three shops appear ready to open as ban ends Jan. 1

By , Columbian business reporter
3 Photos
Sarah Rosdahl, budtender at Sticky's Pot Shop in Hazel Dell, helps a customer in 2017. The store was forced to close last year following a lengthy legal battle with Clark County. The Clark County council has since voted to lift a moratorium on marijuana businesses in unincorporated areas.
Sarah Rosdahl, budtender at Sticky's Pot Shop in Hazel Dell, helps a customer in 2017. The store was forced to close last year following a lengthy legal battle with Clark County. The Clark County council has since voted to lift a moratorium on marijuana businesses in unincorporated areas. (The Columbian files) Photo Gallery

A recent Clark County Council vote opened the door for cannabis shops and other businesses to operate outside of Vancouver and Battle Ground starting January 1, 2020, and several local cannabis dispensary owners appear poised to jump into the ring as early as possible.

Cannabis businesses have been banned in unincorporated Clark County since 2014, but Councilor Temple Lentz’s 2018 election victory appeared to shift the majority opinion of the council toward reexamining that policy, and in July the council voted 3-2 to lift the moratorium.

Two cannabis dispensaries have been announced to open in unincorporated Clark County, and a third appears to be in the works. The first shop is actually a returning business: Sticky’s Pot Shop, which closed in 2018. The second will be a new location for local chain The Herbery, and the third appears to be a brand-new store in Orchards.

Sticky’s situation

Sticky’s Pot Shop in Hazel Dell closed last year after a lengthy fight to stay open despite the county’s ban. Visitors to the store’s website are now greeted by a pop-up message stating that the store will reopen Jan. 1, as soon as the ban ends.

Liquor and Cannabis Board records indicate the shop’s retail cannabis license has been renewed; the current license for the shop at 9411 N.E. Highway 99 shows an issue date of Oct. 3.

The original incarnation of Sticky’s opened in December 2015 in defiance of the ban, a salvo in an ongoing fight between owner John Larson and the county. Larson unsuccessfully sued the county in 2014, arguing that the moratorium violated state law.

The store closed for the first time in September 2016 following a lengthy court fight. Clark County Superior Court Judge Daniel Stahnke ruled that Larson needed to close the shop to comply with county rules, and he denied a request for a stayed enforcement while Larson appealed the case.

The Washington State Court of Appeals later issued an order directing the county court to allow Sticky’s to remain open while the appeal played out, provided that Larson filed a $205,000 bond to cover fines incurred for operating during 2016. Larson paid the fee and reopened the store in September 2017.

The Court of Appeals ultimately sided with the county, and the state Supreme Court declined to hear the case on appeal. Sticky’s closed again in July 2018.

The store’s parent company, Emerald Enterprises, reached a stipulated agreement with the county in March in which $112,500 of the $205,000 court fee would be paid to the county as a civil penalty, while the remaining $92,500 would be returned to Larson.

Larson testified at a public hearing leading up to the county council’s July vote to overturn the ban, urging the councilors to “reject the ignorance and the hysteria that has dictated recreational marijuana policy up to this point.”

One Herbery closes, another opens

The other announced store is a new Herbery location in Hazel Dell. The local chain currently consists of three locations in Vancouver: The Herbery 164th, The Herbery St. Johns and The Herbery Chkalov. The company announced plans for The Herbery Hazel Dell in a blog post on Saturday, stating that the store will open “when Clark County lifts its cannabis moratorium in the new year.”

The company stated that it is renovating the Hazel Dell site, which will be the biggest Herbery location. A license for the new store is pending, and state records list the location as 1401 N.E. 78th St., the former site of the Dragon King Restaurant & Lounge, which closed in the second half of 2018.

In the same blog post, the company announced that the original Herbery location on 164th Avenue will close on Nov. 30. The company stated that the building’s landlord had been unable to renew the business’s lease “due to current federal banking regulations.”

All of the employees at the 164th Avenue location will be retained, the company wrote, and it urged customers to visit the Chkalov location instead.

The company also urged readers to contact Washington Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray and urge them to support the passage of the SAFE Banking Act, which would allow cannabis businesses to access banking services that are currently out of reach due to the federal prohibition of marijuana.

It’s unclear exactly how current banking restrictions forced the landlord to end the shop’s lease. An employee at the 164th Avenue location confirmed the closure but referred questions to the company’s media team, which did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Opening in Orchards

The third new shop hasn’t been officially announced, but state records show a pending license for a shop called Orchards Cannabis Market at 11800 N.E. 65th St., off of Northeast 117th Ave., north of where state Highway 500 intersects with Fourth Plain Boulevard.

State business records also show a business license for Orchards Cannabis Market at the same listed address. One of the company’s listed governing people is Loren Carlson, who also owns the Cannabis Country Store in Battle Ground.

Clark County records show that the former Body Armor car accessory shop building at 11800 N.E. 65th St. was purchased in early October by a company called LCOMP LLC. State business records show that company is also governed by Loren Carlson.

Carlson could not be reached by phone on Monday and did not reply to an email requesting comment.