Judge lifts injunction after Monday hearing
A marijuana retailer will be allowed to move to Twisp from Carlton, after an Okanogan County judge on Monday (Aug. 5) lifted a restraining order that had blocked the move and delayed the store’s opening.
Cascade Bible Church, at 1119 E. Methow Valley Highway, had been granted the temporary restraining order against the state Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) and Twisp House of Cannabis. The LCB had issued a license allowing House of Cannabis to move to the front of the Yard Food building at 1017 E. Methow Valley Highway, across Burton Street from the church.
The church had argued that it has operated a recreation center on its grounds since the 1970s. State law prohibits marijuana stores within 1,000 feet of recreation centers, schools, playgrounds, parks, transit centers, arcades, child care facilities and libraries.
The church also had argued that Master’s Christian School held its classes on the grounds, but the school is not recognized by the state.
Superior Court Judge Henry Rawson issued the restraining order on July 26. Monday’s hearing would decide whether the church’s case met the higher legal standard of a preliminary injunction. Cascade Bible Church sought the injunction to prevent House of Cannabis from moving while Rawson considered the merits of the church’s case.
The courtroom’s gallery was full nearly to capacity with 45 onlookers — almost all of them supporting the church.
After hearing arguments from the church, LCB and the marijuana retailer during the 90-minute hearing, Rawson agreed with House of Cannabis attorney Erin McCool that the church did not meet the standard for an injunction.
“I have to have a strong showing that the Cascade Bible Church would prevail in the long run, if I’m going to enter a preliminary injunction,” Rawson said. “I don’t have that evidence as such.”
Not a rec center?
McCool argued the church did not meet the LCB’s definition of a recreation center. The Cannabis Board’s rules say a recreation center is “owned and/or managed by a charitable nonprofit organization” or a government.
The church had submitted a letter to the court from the Internal Revenue Service confirming its status as a nonprofit. However, the rule specifically says “charitable nonprofit.” McCool pointed out that Cascade Bible Church is not registered with the state as a charity, but rather as a religious organization. State law says churches are not charitable organizations.
To get the injunction, the church also needed to prove “actual and substantial injury” if the marijuana store were to locate across the street.
Michael Brady, the church’s attorney, opened his argument by saying the church would lose trust.
“This is the risk to the Cascade Bible Church’s recreational facility: the trust that the church has with the broader community, that when the children come to the recreational center, they will be safe,” Brady said.
McCool countered that the church wouldn’t be injured at all, while the harm to House of Cannabis was “real and quantifiable” — in dollars.
The store had invested $91,000 to remodel the new location, plus $50,000 for product for the store, according to a statement filed by co-owner Kevin Heiderich. He and co-owners Michael Endicott and Michael McDonald also have been paying $2,000 per month in rent at the Yard Food location since April.
The store was to open on Monday, the day of the hearing.
“They are, as of today, losing sales,” McCool said. “Every day they are not able to open, they are losing an immense amount of money.”
Endicott, contacted immediately after the hearing, declined to comment.
Cascade Bible Church Pastor Harlan Humiston said in a phone interview the day after the hearing that the church’s leadership board will decide any next steps. The board will meet as early as Sunday (Aug. 11).
“How much resources they want to commit to this, and how they evaluate the possibility of ultimately winning — that’s all going to be taken in to consideration,” Humiston said of the church board’s discussions.
The pastor said he was disappointed in the judge’s decision, adding that the state should have kept the store 1,000 feet away from church grounds because children gather there for school and recreational activities.
“There’s lots of other locations where a legal marijuana store could go. This was the wrong location,” Humiston said. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t get a judge to see it our way Monday.”