Judge gives Arlington marijuana producer 10 days to resolve 2 minor state violations, or shut its doors permanently

Update – A judge issued a final order Friday that the state Liquor and Cannabis Board can revoke the license for The Clone Zone, a large-scale cannabis producer in Arlington, giving the company 10 days to clear up two of four non-criminal violations that are still on appeal, or face a mandatory shut down.

It may be too little too late, even if a group of supportive lawmakers in this Legislative session get bills passed to include amnesty language for administrative violations that occurred before June 30, 2018.

ARLINGTON – A large-scale marijuana producer in Arlington with 120 employees may have to close down due to a handful of minor non-criminal violations.

The Clone Zone’s license could be revoked immediately, the business would be closed, and they would be forced to destroy their entire inventory.

The state Liquor and Cannabis Board is moving to cancel the license for The Clone Zone because it was docked with four administrative violations over three years.

That’s enough to shut down the company and have a domino effect on its other family of business such as Rolling Farm and Smokey Point Productions, which rely on The Clone Zone.

The owners disagree with the board’s actions, insisting that the violations were minor and clerical in nature.

“The Clone Zone and its family of Smokey Point Productions businesses do not deserve a death sentence for record-keeping errors,” CFO Emily Lade said.

The violations involved, for example, “baby” plants that grew higher than 8 inches, faster than being tagged and registered in the tracing system; illegible tags that faded when exposed to water; a missing tracking number, and a mis-entered duplicate listing by a worker, all of which were immediately addressed by the company, along with paying fines amounting to $40,625.

More recently, a fourth violation was issued in 2017 involving an employee who overlooked three boxes of concentrate on a shelf above his head that were supposed to be part of a 10-box delivery (with only seven delivered), and electronic miscommunication of data between the company’s inventory tracking system and the state’s traceability system.

The company updated the software to fix the problem, Lade said. The violation is currently under appeal in Thurston County Superior Court in Olympia.

Lade said the company adheres to guidelines in the federal Cole Memorandum, which reads that the state board’s regulations for traceability are intended primarily to prevent access and distribution of marijuana to minors, influence and participation by illegal drug organizations, and diversion of cannabis onto the black market.

The Clone Zone violated none of those principles, Lade said.

Now the business is fighting for its life.

A summary judgment was issued to cancel The Clone Zone’s license Jan. 7 on the basis of the four violations within three years.

However, three days prior, the company was granted a temporary restraining order in Thurston County to prevent the state board from cancelling the license for two weeks.

A hearing is set Friday for a judge to determine whether the order should be continued through the entirety of the appeal. The record includes several letters written by employees that their livelihood and jobs they’re passion about aren’t taken away.

Meantime, the company has drawn the support of some state lawmakers and the Arlington mayor who side with the owners, and wrote to the board and agency director that they want to rewrite industry regulations.

Four state lawmakers, led by Rep. Derek Stanford (D-Bothell), chairman of the House Commerce and Gaming Committee, and Sen. Ann Rivers (R-La Center), an industry advocate in Clark County, sent a letter to the Liquor and Cannabis Board.

They want to introduce bills this legislative session modeled after the system that has been in place at Labor and Industries and other agencies for decades.

“That system focuses on compliance before enforcement,” they wrote. “It recognizes that industry members should have the opportunity to rectify mistakes as long as the issues do not represent risk to public safety.”

They said the pioneer years for the cannabis industry in Washington has “been a learning experience for everyone involved.”

Mayor Barb Tolbert said beyond the economic benefits, the company has participated in civic events, downtown improvements, park cleanups, food bank holiday food and toy drives and supported funds to reduce the impacts of opioid addiction in the community.

In a Jan. 11 letter to Liquor and Cannabis Board members, she urged them to suspend the final order to cancel The Clone Zone’s Producer/Processor license.

In 2018, the board cancelled nine licenses and have 28 revocations in progress, including The Clone Zone.

“The business is a great community member and has not incurred an administrative violation for the past fourteen months,” Tolbert said.

She said the two violations received within the past three years do not come close to the state’s biggest regulatory concerns, such as public safety or diversion of cannabis into the black market.

Tolbert said, “A few administrative violations resulting in fines and implementation of more stringent best practices should not add up to the closure of a thriving business that goes above and beyond to invest in its local community.”

Lade is proud that the company and its employers are engaged in the community that welcomes them. “Businesses that are committed to their local community enable smaller cities and towns to thrive.”

She said it isn’t just about the business; it’s the employees who depend on them.

“As much as we can try to reassure them that we’re strong and reliant and working on plan A, B and C, they’re worried about their job and their families,” Lade said.

More in News

Inslee: Stay home for 2 weeks

By Jerry Cornfield and Zachariah Bryan The Herald OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay… Continue reading

Fences have been put up around Marysville playgrounds to keep kids off. (Steve Powell/Staff Photos)
Marysville leaders concerned as (almost) everything’s closing

By Steve Powell spowell@marysvilleglobe.com MARYSVILLE – Within hours of Gov. Jay Inslee’s… Continue reading

Briefly

Beware of coronavirus scams SEATTLE – U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran is… Continue reading

Jennifer Thompson, left, and her father Ron Thompson secure a new remembrance plaque to the Oso slide site gate on Sunday, near Oso. Ron Thompson handcrafts a new plaque for the gate every year. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Community remembers Oso slide victims, survivors

By Ben Watanabe The Herald OSO — The power of remembering the… Continue reading

People gather to pick up special allergy meals before leaving Lakewood High School on Wednesday in Marysville. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Districts taking meals to students since schools are closed

By Stephanie Davey The Herald LAKEWOOD — Children wearing pajamas stood outside… Continue reading

Jon Nehring
Letter about coronavirus from Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring

This is an edited version of a letter Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring… Continue reading

DOUGLAS BUell/Staff Photos
                                Lead cook Keina Gowins with Presidents Elementary hands out free grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches to students and parents outside the school Wednesday. Presidents and AHS serve as central kitchen sites for preparing meals, which starting next week will expand to 12 delivery sites from Silvana to Oso. Right, Arlington Food Bank executive director Carla Gastineau and Mike Simpson, food bank board president and owner of Arlington Grocery Outlet, partnered with the district with their Meals Til Monday program, and gave a woman a box of donated food while at Presidents.
Arlington students won’t go hungry during the COVID-19 school closures

ARLINGTON – Arlington schools are closed through April 24 to help fight… Continue reading

Scott Beebe hands out Chromebooks to people in their cars. (Steve Powell/Staff Photos)
Marysville parents anxious to pick up school materials for kids

By Steve Powell spowell@marysvilleglobe.com MARYSVILLE – A few days ago Marysville schools… Continue reading

Jon Nehring
Marysville leaders’ trip to D.C. productive

MARYSVILLE – City leaders recently obtained advice on how to get more… Continue reading

Crews will blow garbage into the street and sweep it up over the next few weeks. The city is asking people to move their cars, trash cans and recycle bins when they come around to help them do a thorough job. (Courtesy Photo)
Marysville shuffles workers due to virus, seeks public’s help for sweepers next week

By Steve Powell spowell@marysvilleglobe. MARYSVILLE – From working from home to teleconferencing… Continue reading

Arlington closed until April 24 amid COVID-19 outbreak: what’s next?

ARLINGTON – When Arlington public school leaders met for a special meeting… Continue reading