Save Sticky Budz!
By Christine Bryant
Since 2014, recreational cannabis growers, processors, and retailers alike have operated under some of the strictest legal regulations in Washington state; and it's no small task! Enforcing and abiding by Washington's state, county, and city regulations requires integrity, transparency, and an incredible eye for detail. But recently, even cannabis companies that operate in compliance with these laws and regulations are at risk of going out of business. Even though the cannabis industry creates thousands of jobs in communities across Washington state, and contributes millions of dollars in tax revenue each year, some Washington counties and county commissioners fail to see the benefits and opportunities of legal cannabis and instead work against our industry’s existence in their counties.
On August 16, 2018, nearly four years after the legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington state, “a Kittitas County Superior Court judge on Thursday gave Yakima County a green light to shut down cannabis grower and processor Sticky Budz, which has been operating in an unincorporated area despite a ban on such operations,” wrote Phil Ferolito in the Yakima Herald on August 16, 2018.
How can they do this? In 2012, Yakima County voters rejected the legalization of recreational marijuana, despite statewide approval. And, as Ferolito reported, “an advisory vote in November 2017 showed county voters had not changed their position, with more than 60 percent in support of upholding the ban.”
“We’re not going away — we’re going to fight as hard as we can to stay in business,” Sticky Budz CEO Jamie Muffett said. “After four years, they want to shut us down. It’s ridiculous.”
Muffett opened Sticky Budz in 2014; he said his business is heavily regulated by the state and employs at least 28 full-time workers. “These workers are people who buy homes, people who rent, people who inject revenue back into our system,” he said. “This is a legitimate business.”
So, how did cannabis businesses operate in unincorporated Yakima County, despite the voters’ disapproval? Many of the state-licensed marijuana businesses operating in unincorporated areas of Yakima County said they were low-key operations solely catering to the medical marijuana market, and so county authorities let them operate for medicinal purposes only.
But a change in state regulations in the summer of 2016 placed medicinal marijuana supplies — which before were regulated separately from recreational weed — into the broader recreational market and thus in violation of the county’s ban.
Operating the marijuana businesses despite the ban is a civil infraction, according to the letter of the law in Yakima County. However, many other instances of civil infractions, some of which have gone on for years, have not seen any attention from Yakima law enforcement.
Jeffrey McPhee, chief operating officer of Sticky Budz and consultant to cannabis businesses, said it’s unfair for the county to prioritize enforcement action against them while there are many code violations, such as junked and abandoned cars and structures built without proper permits, that have been outstanding for years. “We understand this to be incredibly discriminatory to ignore all other code violations and to cherry-pick a single state-licensed business,” McPhee said in the Yakima Herald on January 31, 2018.
Representatives from Sticky Budz shared the following message with us in August 2018:
As you may or may not be aware, the Yakima County Commissioners are making a power play and attempting to shut down all cannabis production in unincorporated parts of Yakima County. While they have chosen to first attack one of the largest cannabis farmers in the valley, Sticky Budz, should they be successful, all of the cannabis farmers in the region will be forced to shut down. This would lead to the demise of over 20 farmers in the region and hundreds of local jobs.
Earlier this year, the Yakima County Commissioners decided that they were going to take on the cannabis industry, and it appears that this may be an overreach of the Commission and their authority. While their job description is to execute ordinances, there have been no laws broken nor complaints filed against Sticky Budz. There was, however, recently an advisory vote in Yakima County on whether the cannabis industry should be allowed to exist. The wording of the advisory vote was intentionally confusing in an attempt to trick voters into thinking that their Yes vote was actually to ban the industry in the county, in opposition to Washington State law. At this point, we are not certain why the County Commissions are discriminating against farmers in our region.
We have appealed a ruling by a judge in Kittitas County last week to the Washington State Division III Court of Appeals and have put up a bond to allow us to continue operating as usual as we work through this appeals process.
Jerina Pillert, Hashtag co-owner and chief operations officer, has operated our two recreational dispensaries in the Seattle and Redmond areas since 2015. Pillert said,
In a lot of ways, our nascent industry is extremely fragile. I think it is easy in the day-to-day operations of a modern cannabis company to lose sight of how quickly it could be wiped away--and to forget that we have a lot more work to do in educating and advocating for the sale and consumption of this remarkable plant. Every day at Hashtag Cannabis in Fremont and Redmond, we work to connect with our surrounding communities to open hearts and minds to the potential for marijuana to improve our society and our individual quality of life for the better. We remain steadfast in our commitment to advocate for our partners and for the industry.
Brooke Davies, director of operations for the Cannabis Organization of Retail Establishments (CORE), said, “Although we have come a long way since legalization, there is still more work ahead of us.” Davies advocates on behalf of licensed I-502 cannabis retailers in Washington State. As a coalition of retailers, CORE creates a unified voice that advocates for a safe, effective, and healthy retail environment for the sale of cannabis and related products in an economically sustainable and well-regulated marijuana industry. Davies works closely with Washington state legislators in Olympia, Washington and stated that
in 2018, there were over 80 bills presented to the Washington state legislature which affected the cannabis industry. Most of those 80 bills sought to put more regulation on cannabis businesses, including one bill, HB 2096, sponsored by a representative from Eastern Washington, that would repeal the I-502 scheme all together. Although many of these bills did not pass, the sheer volume of bills presented does reveal that some parts of the state still have grave hesitations when it comes to legal cannabis. Although Seattle and most parts of western Washington have embraced the legalization of cannabis, the fight is still ongoing in other parts of the state. Cities and towns have benefited greatly from dispensaries and grow operations--for example, in Raymond, Washington, the cannabis industry employs 200 of the town’s nearly 3,000 residents. As an industry, we continue to share stories like these at the state legislature to highlight the economic impact available to local jurisdictions when they embrace legalization.
Hashtag and Sticky Budz have been partners since October 2017, and since day one, their products have been budtender and customer favorites. Sticky Budz grows pesticide-free weed in the beautiful sunshine of Yakima, Washington and processes the flower they’ve grown into joints, concentrate, and infused topical lotions (including the first infused lotion with a pump in Washington state!). Their company values diversity and inclusivity as top priorities in all that they do.
The cannabis industry operates entirely legally in Washington state, and we ask for your help to show the Yakima County Commissioners the beneficial economic impact that cannabis businesses have brought and can continue to bring to their community.
Hashtag Cannabis stands with Sticky Budz
and other Yakima County cannabis businesses.
Make your voice heard, and support Sticky Budz today!
- Sign the petition to save Sticky Budz here: https://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/250/795/812/
Call the Yakima County Commissioners’ office to voice your concerns: 509-574-1500
- Email the Yakima County Commissioners at the following email addresses:
- Mike Leita - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ron Anderson - email@example.com
- Rand Elliott - firstname.lastname@example.org
Copy and paste the text below, and send it in your own email to the commissioners!
Dear Yakima County Commissioners,
I disagree completely with your selectively harsh enforcement against the legally operating recreational cannabis businesses of Yakima County. No complaints or citations have been levelled against these businesses, and yet you ignore blatant code violations within your jurisdiction and instead choose to persecute an entirely legal industry which employs hundreds of people in your county.
Cease this persecution immediately, and allow these legal cannabis businesses to continue to operate, thereby supporting the hundreds of hard workers and their families in Yakima County employed by the cannabis industry.