Church plans action when license renewal sought
Cascade Bible Church on Jan. 28 withdrew its appeal of an Okanogan County judge’s decision to allow a marijuana retailer to open across the street from the Twisp church.
The church had filed a notice of appeal back in September with the Washington state Court of Appeals in Spokane but decided to withdraw the case before it even started.
“We are affirmed with regards to our position at the outset,” said Kevin Heiderich, co-owner of House of Cannabis. “All three of the partners in House of Cannabis, and the six employees at the Twisp facility, are thrilled that their business and jobs have survived this predicament.”
But the church has not given up the fight, its attorney said.
“Relying on the Christian Law Association’s expertise and experience in religious discrimination claims, the Cascade Bible Church has dropped the appeal in favor of pursuing the religious discrimination claim in the upcoming annual license-renewal proceedings for the Twisp House of Cannabis,” Winthrop attorney Michael Brady said. While Brady represents the church locally, the church’s case is handled primarily by the Christian Law Association, an Ohio-based nonprofit that provides free legal services to Bible-believing churches, according to its website.
“The Cascade Bible Church bears no ill will against the owners of the business,” Brady added. “Its gripe is against the state for allowing it to relocate to its present location.”
In July of last year, at the church’s request, Okanogan County Superior Court Judge Henry Rawson issued a restraining order against House of Cannabis, temporarily barring the retailer from moving its Carlton store to the YardFood building at 1017 E. Methow Valley Highway in Twisp. The church’s property is directly across Burton Street from the new location.
But the judge lifted the restraining order 10 days later, after a hearing in which Brady had argued for a preliminary injunction against the store’s relocation.
Judge Rawson agreed with attorneys for House of Cannabis and the state Liquor Control Board (LCB). A preliminary injunction is an “extraordinary remedy,” and the church did not meet that high standard, Rawson said in his written decision, issued on Aug. 23.
The church had argued that Twisp House of Cannabis should not open across the street because the church operates a recreation center on its property. State law prohibits marijuana retailers from locating within 1,000 feet of recreation centers, schools, playgrounds, parks, transit centers, arcades, child care facilities and libraries.
The judge, however, was dubious about whether the rec center played a significant role at the church. He agreed with House of Cannabis attorney Erin McCool, who argued at the Aug. 5 hearing that state law requires a rec center to be operated by a charitable nonprofit organization or a government. The church was not registered with the state as a charity, and state law says churches are not charitable organizations.
Rawson also pointed out in his decision that the church hadn’t filed an appeal directly with the LCB, against the agency’s decision to allow the store to move to the YardFood site, “and therefore failed to exhaust its administrative remedies” as required by state law.
It appears the church will seek that remedy this year, when Twisp House of Cannabis’ license is up for its annual renewal. The store opened on Aug. 12.
Heiderich, one of the store owners, said the bigger threat to the marijuana businesses in general comes from the federal Department of Justice or the Internal Revenue Service.
“Nothing in cannabis is ever certain, but we do feel we have made a good impression as a great neighbor,” Heiderich said. “We feel 100% confident that this license was placed in compliance with Washington state law.”