An Omak cannabis grower that sued Okanogan County over a requirement to meet with the county to show its license and a detailed site plan is not entitled to an injunction because it hasn’t shown any harm and hasn’t pursued other avenues for redress, according to the county’s reply to the January lawsuit filed by Ladyhelm Farm.
The county’s reply was filed in Okanogan County Superior Court on March 4 by attorney Quinn Plant of Menke Jackson Beyer.
Ladyhelm Farm contends that requirements in the ordinance adopted last year by the Okanogan County commissioners violate its Constitutional rights.
The commissioners said the ordinance was necessary to clarify discrepancies in state and county records. The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board had issued about 125 licenses for cannabis grows in Okanogan County, some at non-existent addresses, whereas the county had issued only 85 permits to growers, according to the county’s reply.
The ordinance set a deadline for these meetings, which was subsequently extended. While Ladyhelm Farm didn’t meet with the county, the farm suffered no consequences, Plant said.
Moreover, Ladyhelm had a “plain, complete, speedy and adequate remedy” through other state law. If the county revoked its permit, Ladyhelm Farm could appeal, Plant wrote.
Ladyhelm Farm asserts that the county already has all the information it needs. But the county says that some growers have letters and documents that are not in the Planning Department’s files, many of which would have been created under the county’s former planning director.
The county rejects the argument that the requirement to meet with the county and present documents violates the Ladyhelm Farm’s Constitutional rights. Ladyhelm Farm asserts that the meeting requirement violates the equal-protection clause in the 14th Amendment because it singles out cannabis producers, whereas other businesses haven’t been asked to provide proof of compliance with county regulations.
“The plaintiff acknowledges that no protected class arises from its status as a licensed marijuana grower,” Plant wrote. The ordinance focused on growers because they “present unique problems in terms of land conflicts not experienced with cannabis processors and retailers,” according to the reply. The ordinance included findings and facts that provide a rational basis for the meeting requirement, Plant said.
The county’s attorneys also rejected Ladyhelm Farm’s other Constitutional argument — namely, that being asked to meet with the county and produce documents violates their Fifth-amendment protection against self-incrimination.
Ladyhelm Farm asserts that the fact that the county could charge them with a misdemeanor implicates their right to protection against self-incrimination. But Plant argues that these rights aren’t violated unless a person is prosecuted for a crime and compelled to be a witness against him or herself.
“No criminal charges have been filed against the plaintiff. There is no evidence the County has forced the plaintiff to give incriminating testimony without first immunizing the testimony from use in future criminal proceedings,” Plant wrote.
A preliminary injunction is inappropriate because Ladyhelm Farm cannot establish a well-grounded fear that its rights will be violated if the county isn’t prevented from enforcing the ordinance. “This is fairly obvious because the plaintiff has already refused to comply with Ordinance No. 2021-9 [and] suffered no consequences,” Plant wrote.
Ladyhelm Farm sued the county, the three county commissioners, and the planning director. The reply asserts that none of those individuals was properly served with a summons and a copy of the complaint.
A hearing scheduled in the case in early March was stricken from the court calendar. No other hearings have been scheduled.