[2/14/22] Okanogan County Cannabis Suit

Posted in Law Enforcement, Local Government & Meetings

An Omak cannabis grower has sued Okanogan County over the county’s new requirement that growers meet with planning staff to show their license and a detailed site plan. The grower argues that the county already has that information and that being asked to furnish it violates their Constitutional rights.

On January 21st Ladyhelm Farm sued the county, the three county commissioners, and the planning director over a moratorium on new or expanded cannabis grows that includes the meeting requirement.

The suit alleges that ordering the growers to provide this information violates their Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. It also argues that the requirement also violates the equal-protection clause in the 14th Amendment by singling out cannabis producers, whereas other businesses haven’t been asked to provide proof that they’re in compliance with regulations for things like zoning and shorelines. Even cannabis processors and retailers aren’t subject to the same requirement, it says.

Ladyhelm Farm is seeking an injunction on the meeting requirement and on the county’s threat, quoting the lawsuit, “to revoke the permits of producers if they do not meet with the County and provide information that is already within the County’s possession.”

Moreover, the lawsuit says the county should be able to find out how many cannabis operations and buildings are on a parcel by sending an enforcement officer to the property, or ask the State Liquor and Cannabis Board.

The county says the meetings with cannabis growers aren’t intended to be punitive – they are primarily an effort to get up-to-date information and be sure growers have the necessary permits, Planning Director Pete Palmer said. Of 125 licenses issued by the LCB, only 80 had been permitted by the county. Palmer says records kept by her predecessor are either incomplete or unclear.

Both Okanogan County Superior Court judges, Chris Culp and Henry Rawson, have recused themselves from the case. The county is in the process of finding a visiting judge from another county who can hear the case.