YAKIMA, Wash. -- A Kittitas County Superior Court judge on Thursday gave Yakima County a green light to shut down cannabis grower and processor Sticky Budz, which has been operating in an unincorporated area despite a ban on such operations.
In a letter announcing the decision, Judge Scott Sparks said Yakima County commissioners were within their legal authority to enforce the county ban and shut down the business, which is situated on Yakima Valley Highway just outside Zillah in the Lower Valley.
“While it can certainly be argued that the manufacturing, processing or sale of marijuana should not be a nuisance, those arguments were properly made before, and rejected by the Yakima County Board of County Commissioners. The board is entirely within its authority in this subject area and their decision on this issue should not be disturbed by the judiciary,” Sparks wrote in the letter.
The decision comes months after the county successfully shut down The Old Pot Shop retailer in the Gleed area.
Commissioner Mike Leita said the county will shut down Sticky Budz and the more than 20 other cannabis businesses operating in unincorporated areas if they fail to cease operations.
“We’re not going to let up,” Leita said. “So now we have been affirmed in our ordinance and we will continue to make sure that there are not marijuana establishments in unincorporated Yakima County.”
But Sticky Budz isn’t giving in without a fight, said CEO Jamie Muffett. On Thursday, he said he filed an appeal with the state Court of Appeals as well as a motion to block the county from any abatement action pending his appeal.
“We’re not going away — we’re going to fight as hard as we can to stay in business,” Muffett said. “After four years, they want to shut us down. It’s ridiculous.”
Muffett opened Sticky Budz in 2014; he said his business is heavily regulated by the state and is employing 28 full-time workers.
“These workers are people who buy homes, people who rent, people who inject revenue back into our system,” he said. “This is a legitimate business.”
Muffett said he’s stumped by the court’s hard stance against businesses that are licensed and heavily regulated by the state.
“It’s disgusting; you’ve got Yakima County commissioners who have never once come down and walked through our facility shutting us down,” he said. “We’ve opened our arms to anybody who wants to know what a real cannabis business is, to come down and take a tour.”
But legitimacy of the business isn’t the issue for commissioners, who say the ban they enacted four years ago was the will of the voters.
Voters statewide legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, but a majority of Yakima County voters rejected legalization. In November, more than 60 percent of voters upheld the marijuana business ban in an advisory vote.
Now, Leita said he hopes the cannabis businesses abide by the voters’ will and stop operating in unincorporated areas, or the county will come in and take down their businesses and bill them for the abatement costs.
“That’s what this is all about,” Leita said. “This is about democracy.”
Marijuana proponents criticized the advisory vote, saying the ballot language was confusing and that many voters thought their “yes” votes meant removing the ban, Muffett said.
“We’re a legitimate tax-paying business,” he said. “This is a regulated business; it’s not a bunch of people sitting around getting high.”
This story was updated to correctly state how long the county's ban on marijuana businesses has been in place.