Washington regulators last week forced three licensed cannabis producers to destroy about 13,000 pounds of cannabis – valued at approximately $3 million – after accusing the growers of cultivating more than their licenses allowed, the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin reports. The owners of the sites argue that they are being unfairly targeted and penalized by regulators responding to complaints made by industry competitors.
Evergreen Nirvana and Black Diamond Cannabis, who are licensed to grow 30,000 square feet of canopy, and Green Volcano, which is licensed for 10,000 square feet of canopy, were notified by the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) that they were growing more than their licenses allow, the report says. The three farms are the only cultivators in Walla Walla County, which banned recreational cannabis farms in 2014 — after the companies had received their licenses as medical cannabis cultivators but had already established their operations as legal land use. The county would adopt a moratorium on medical cannabis operations by the end of June 2019, the report says.
Michael Rothwell, an attorney representing the growers, argues that the companies’ outdoor grow canopy does not exceed the limits because regulators should not be counting the empty space in between the plants as canopy. Rothwell contends that the state’s definition of “plant canopy” for cannabis growers limits the square footage calculation to live plant cultivation, but some areas on site are explicitly excluded from that calculation. He told the Union-Bulletin that his clients “were not given any warning of this new change in interpretation of canopy space.”
“It would be no different if you paid your taxes the exact same way since 2017 and then this year the same IRS agent who has been auditing you every year says what you’re doing now is illegal and you must forfeit your income.” — Rothwell to the Union-Bulletin
Cpt. Jeremy Wissing, who oversees cannabis production with the LCB, told the Union-Bulletin that the growers have “been operating in a non-compliant fashion in this entire time and it was a lack of understanding of the officer that previously looked at it.”
The LCB maintains that it has not recently changed its canopy definitions.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the regulatory action took place in Oregon, not Washington. We regret the error and apologize for any confusion.
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