The Washington Liquor and Cannabis Control Board won’t revoke the license of a cannabis retailer that is moving to an unincorporated island at the edge of West Richland.
Aaron Lambert, community development director for West Richland, asked the board to reconsider its unexpected and controversial decision to allow the shop in an old house at a former riding arena.
The Garden LLC, operating as Nirvana Cannabis Co., was allowed to transfer its license from Prosser to the small county donut hole on Arena Road surrounded by West Richland.
Lambert said the state should reconsider because of a lack of notice to neighboring jurisdictions and the property’s proximity to the Kid Space Preschool and Early Learning Academy.
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West Richland prohibits cannabis sales, as do neighboring Kennewick and Richland. Benton City lifted its ban following a contentious public debate in December.
Benton County considered banning cannabis retail sales in 2015, but never did.
The result is four licensed cannabis retailers in Benton County areas where it is currently legal, including Prosser (Altitudes), Finley (Green 2Go) and the Griffin Road area (The Bakeshop).
“While we understand your concerns with the proximity of the proposed location to two cities that currently have a ban/moratorium, this is out of the jurisdiction of the Liquor and Cannabis Board,” wrote Rebecca Smith, director of licensing and regulation.
In this case, they applied to move locations. We investigated. We notified the local authority, which in this case is Benton County, and they did not object.
Mikhail Carpenter, Washington Liquor and Cannabis Control Board
Mikhail Carpenter, spokesman for the liquor and cannabis board, elaborated, saying that while it’s common for businesses to move, license transfers are not rubber stamped. Nirvana met the legal requirements and its new site is zoned for commercial use, which is consistent the nearby properties.
“In this case, they applied to move locations. We investigated. We notified the local authority, which in this case is Benton County, and they did not object,” he said.
Carpenter said the law against cannabis businesses within 1,000 feet of schools applies to primary and secondary schools and to preschools registered with the state Department of Early Learning. Kid Space is not registered.
Lambert said there’s little more West Richland can do, even though the city encircles the property.
“It’s completely out of our jurisdiction,” he said.“We really have no control.”
It’s completely out of our jurisdiction. We really have no control.
Aaron Lambert, West Richland community development director
West Richland provides water to the Nirvana property — a 1990s connection that predates the city’s current requirement that property owners annex in order to connect to city utilities. It is not connected to the city sewer system.
Neighbors say they aren’t done fighting and plan to attend the Benton County Commission meeting to speak out.
The commission meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the county courthouse, 620 Market St., Prosser. The meetings also are telecast in the second floor conference room of the Benton County Justice Center, 7122 W. Okanogan Place, Kennewick.
Nirvana is not on its agenda but is expected to come up during public comments.
John Muenks, a resident of the Mountain Meadow neighborhood directly across Kennedy Road from the Nirvana property, has emerged as unofficial spokesman for the effort. More than 500 people have signed its petition calling for better public notice and a safety review.
The group has reached out to state and local officials and is consulting with an attorney about its next step.
Muenks and his Mountain meadow neighbors are careful to cast Nirvana as a traffic and possibly crime issue, not a marijuana one.
Washington voters approved Initiative 502 legalizing marijuana in 2012. Though Benton and Franklin voters overwhelmingly opposed it, it now state law. Cannabis remains illegal under federal law.
Our issue is the overflow of traffic. It’s surrounded by a city in a residential area and they just snuck it in.
Teresa France, neighbor
The neighbors say the problem is traffic and they cite Finley’s Green2Go, a heavy traffic generator at Highway 397 and Bowles Road, as an example.
“We don’t want that here,” said Boris Munder, another West Richland resident.
Muenks agreed. He said a neighbor observed a vehicle associated with the house speeding down his street.
School buses stop all through the area, including on Arena Road in front of the Nirvana property. When residents posted signs along Kennedy Road, they were shocked to see hostile drivers swerve to run down the signs.
Teresa France, who has a clear view of the Nirvana site from her front door, said she knew little about the property’s future until crews started tearing out a windbreak and bulldozing vegetation and the riding ring in preparation for a new parking lot.
“Our issue is the overflow of traffic,” she said. “It’s surrounded by a city in a residential area and they just snuck it in.”