Way back in November, 2013, the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) let us all know we could rest easy about the implementation of I-502. In a WSLCB webinar on November 12th (WATCH), Licensing and Regulation Director Alen Rathbun acknowledged the “concern that people are going to try to game the system,” and promised “We’re not going to let that happen.”
The WSLCB was going to make sure marijuana businesses were not located within 1000 feet of a disqualifying daycare, school, park, library, recreational center, transit center, or arcade. They would not stop with just using their own Geographic Information System (GIS), since he recognized its limitations. Director Rathbun told us, “The GIS system will help us say no, but it won’t allow us to say yes, simply because not all of the data is readily discernable on our GIS.” He continued, “We’re going to be making physical visits to the site itself,” and, “We will do a physical measurement because any GIS system that’s out there, or any kind of Google software that’s out there, whether it’s current or not is always a question.”
One of the things a GIS can’t determine is if the address it’s measuring is from a parcel of land that’s part of a larger property, made up of multiple parcels like a shopping center or a school. The WSLCB has never wavered that the boundaries of the entire property, not a parcel within it, are from where the 1000 foot distance is measured. To make sure, I wrote the WSLCB with a hypothetical example:
the “Town Plaza” shopping center occupies parcel A and parcel B. The leased space for a marijuana retail store is in a building on parcel A. There is a nearby school. The school is more than 1000 feet away from parcel A and less than 1000 feet away from parcel B. Is the location valid?
Rebecca Smith, Marijuana and Licensing Regulation Manager, replied:
As for you hypothetical question, we would measure from the Town Plaza shopping Center…if building B does not meet the measurement, then A would not meet the measurement.
Another thing a GIS can’t determine is if a location already has an existing business. But Director Rathbun assured us, “”One, we’ll be making a physical visit to the site. So, you know, it’s not going to be a Burger King. It’s not going to be something that isn’t a legitimate site.”
And as a final safeguard, the WSLCB let us know on May 8th:
“…if you believe that a rival applicant’s proposed location violates the rules, you can e-mail the Liquor Control Board and, if your allegations prove correct, that applicant will be removed from application processing.” http://www.cannalawblog.com/washington-state-cannabis-lottery-winners-can-you-now-change-your-location
On May 20th, I emailed the WSLCB irrefutable proof of applications in Vancouver, WA that are within 1000 feet of property boundaries and that are occupied by existing tenants. Vancouver is allowed six licenses, and all of the first six applications are invalid. You can see this for yourself in the document I sent: http://www.booboobama.com/I-502_Prop_vs_Parcel,_Legit_Site,_Zoning.pdf.
The response I received was appalling.
Frank O’Dell and Karen McCall of the WSLCB called us and spelled out the reality for us with complete clarity. The highlights include:
- The WSLCB has over 1000 other applications and does not have the time to look into our concerns.
- The document I sent in was being “ignored”; it had not been read and would not be read. Any further emails would be ignored.
- The locations for all applications that made it into the lottery are more than 1000 feet away from disqualifying establishments when measured from property, not parcel, boundaries. (This is impossible.)
- In-person visits to Vancouver’s top six locations have verified they do not have existing tenants. (I’m wondering how they missed the Muchas Gracias restaurant.)
- He told us, “You tell me where the law says you’re entitled to any response at all.”
- He stated several times, “There is a difference between law and point of rule and we only have to follow the law.” (Not only is this statement is completely wrong, the WSLCB is breaking the law as well as rules.)
What happened to all those promises? I’m forced to conclude that locations are not being visited in person. Claims by the WSLCB, that objections to another application can be emailed to them – and will be considered – are false. The WSLCB considers itself to have free reign to disregard its own rules and the law, however and whenever it chooses, apparently for the sake of expedience in getting licenses issued.
There’s proof of this beyond my telephone conversations with Ms. McCall and Mr. O’Dell. At least one of Vancouver’s top six applications have been submitted to the City of Vancouver for its 20 day review. Invalid locations are being allowed to change their locations subject to a tenant credit check. The WSLCB is required to determine a location is valid before the application is submitted, to the local jurisdiction, or before it is allowed to change its location. Apparently they can ignore this rule, too.
How are we supposed to put a stop to this and force the WSLCB to follow the rules and the law? Who cares enough and has the authority? I don’t know. No one at the WSLCB or the Washington State Attorney General’s office will return my calls.