Retail site is near private Christian school, church
Twisp’s first retail marijuana store is expected to open this month, down the street from a church and a private Christian school.
House of Cannabis, currently operating in Carlton, has been cited three times for violations involving minors in the store. The store’s owner says he regrets these mistakes, and they won’t happen again.
The state approved House of Cannabis’ relocation from Carlton to the Yard Food building at 1017 E. Methow Valley Highway, even though the lot that includes Cascade Bible Church and Master’s Christian School is 40 feet from the Yard Food property, separated only by Burton Street. State law says cannabis retailers may not do business within 1,000 feet of a school, playground, park, recreation center, transit center, arcade, child care facility or library.
The catch is that Master’s Christian School is not recognized by the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), as required in the state’s marijuana code.
“The Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) has said that our Christian school does not meet the definition of ‘school’ … because we are a private school and not registered with [OSPI],” Cascade Bible Church Pastor Harlan Humiston said in an email to the Methow Valley News. “We believe that all private schools in Washington state should be afforded the same zoning protections as private schools, and we are seeking to have this changed through the legislative process by Rep. Keith Goehner’s office.”
Twisp’s town code is silent regarding cannabis stores. The town issued a business license to House of Cannabis on April 18. Mayor Soo Ing-Moody sent a letter to the LCB on March 21 and again on June 5, saying the town was “obligated to disapprove” of the store’s application to relocate to Twisp.
Both times, the state denied Twisp’s request to reject the change of location application, saying the Master’s Christian School “is not recognized” by OSPI.
In an interview, Ing-Moody said her letters were only intended to meet a state requirement and did not represent active opposition to the marijuana store.
“Because we know that [Master’s Christian] is an established school for decades here in the Methow Valley and Twisp, we were obligated to let them know that there’s a school there,” Ing-Moody said.
“We have no pro or con position on this matter. We were just doing our job as required,” she said.
The store’s application to relocate to the Yard Food building was approved on June 13, according to the LCB’s database. Yard Food, a garden shop, will remain open. House of Cannabis will occupy the front of Yard Food’s building, which was most recently occupied by a restaurant.
Humiston, the church pastor, still thinks the state made the wrong decision. In his June 24 email to the News, he said the church-owned gymnasium and the school’s playground should qualify as a recreational facility and a playground, as described in the state’s 1,000-foot rule.
Fines for violations
House of Cannabis has paid $4,500 in fines for its three violations. People under the age of 21 were allowed to enter the store twice according to LCB, in May 2017 and February 2019. On the more recent occasion, an underage LCB agent also was able to purchase marijuana, resulting in the third citation.
Michael Endicott, co-owner of House of Cannabis’ three locations across the state, said the local shop has changed procedures to prevent future violations.
Endicott said a store employee misread the LCB agent’s identification. The store no longer accepts the vertical IDs that are issued to Washington state residents under the age of 21. People often to continue to use their vertical IDs after they turn 21.
“I’m really sorry that that happened,” Endicott said. “We’re always going to do our best with compliance. If I don’t, our license is going to be revoked.”
Selling to a minor a second time within three years would result in a 30-day suspension of the store’s license. A third violation within three years would result in permanent cancelation of the license.
For his part, Endicott said he wishes he had more of an opportunity to explain to the church and the community at large the services he provides. For one, he said, House of Cannabis is authorized to provide medical marijuana, which treats pain, nausea and other ailments. The topical ointments they sell to relieve pain are especially popular among baby boomers, Endicott said.
The Methow Valley has one other cannabis store. Fresh Greens, one of the first 24 retailers approved by the state, opened July 2014 on Horizon Flats Road in Winthrop. At the time, town officials were concerned about operating hours and parking, and preferred the Horizon Flats location to any sites in downtown Winthrop, particularly on Riverside Avenue.
An active retail license was issued for a cannabis store in the small community of Methow, in the long-vacant grocery store building. A store is not likely to open there anytime soon, however.
Okanogan County, which has jurisdiction in Methow, requires a conditional use permit for marijuana stores. The applicant applied for a permit but then canceled the application, county planner Pam Wyllson said.