David Morgan, who applied to open a recreational marijuana store in downtown Pasco, saw his license request rejected this week after the state changed its mind on whether a downtown plaza really is a park.
Morgan told the Herald he will appeal the decision that his planned Lucky Leaf LLC store on Lewis Street is too close to Peanuts Park. The state Liquor Control Board previously approved the location.
He wishes the board had told him he couldn't open in the downtown location before the state conducted its lottery for applicants, he said.
"If I had any knowledge that this was a restricted address, it would have been changed months ago," he said.
Morgan asked Tim Lynch, marijuana licensing investigator with the Liquor Control Board, if Peanuts Park would be a threat to the store because it is marked as a park on a city map.
Initiative 502, the law that legalized marijuana in Washington, prohibits marijuana stores from opening within 1,000 feet of places where children are known to gather, such as parks.
Lynch responded in a July 16 email that the store could be located near Peanuts Park because it doesn't meet the I-502 definition of a park.
The park, located near the Downtown Pasco Farmers Market, contains benches and a fountain that doesn't work, but no playground.
Morgan then paid his first month's rent, $3,000, to his landlord. He needed to build out the store with a state-required security system, but he was within a few weeks of doing that and getting his license, he said.
But he got bad news Thursday when Lynch emailed him again. Lynch said that after talking with his supervisor, he learned that Peanuts Park is considered a park under I-502 rules.
"For this reason, unfortunately, I have to send your application forward for denial," he said.
Morgan was told by Liquor Control Board officials that someone with the city had contacted them during the week and "somehow convinced (the Liquor Control Board) that the two benches and two outhouses between two buildings and two bums was in their opinion a park," Morgan said in an email.
Rick White, Pasco's community and economic development director, emailed Lynch on Wednesday, asking why the state did not consider Peanuts Park to be a park under I-502.
"Can you please advise how this decision was made and what the park is lacking that precludes its identification as a public park?" White asked.
White told the Herald he had no idea why the state allowed Morgan's application to go forward in the first place.
"I couldn't figure out how does an applicant get so far down the road?" he said. "Peanuts Park is only 100 feet from where he is."
The state changed its mind after being made aware of the park, Liquor Control Board spokesman Mikhail Carpenter said.
"He has appeal rights just like anybody else, and this thing will run its course," Carpenter said.
Morgan would not have been able to open the store in Pasco anyway because the city council passed a ban on marijuana businesses Monday. But having the license in hand would make it easier to move his security equipment and open a store in another city that allows marijuana sales and hasn't used up all its allotted stores with the state.
If his appeal doesn't win, Morgan will likely have to wait until at least 2015 to apply for another license, and then go through the whole process again.
-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom