On March 30, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (“TIGTA”) issued a report entitled “The Growth of the Marijuana Industry Warrants Increased Tax Compliance Efforts and Additional Guidance. We’ve reviewed the report and summarize it as follows:

  • TIGTA ignores the black market in its entirety. There is a high probability that black market sellers do not file tax returns or property apply section 280E. Our view is that Treasury should also be concerned about lost revenue from noncompliance within the black market rather than focus its efforts on state-legal operators.
  • TIGTA relied on statistical sampling to estimate that cannabis companies underreported federal tax liabilities of $48.5 million. TIGTA’s conclusion is based on anticipated section 280E adjustments where they determined there was a “high rate of noncompliance” in Washington, Oregon, and California. Those anticipated adjustments primarily relate to the following three areas:

1. Section 263A adjustments. Prior to the Tax Court decision in Harborside, many cannabis taxpayers took the tax return position that they could rely on the uniform capitalization rules found in section 263A to determine cost of goods sold (“COGS”). Before the Tax Court’s decision, the IRS issued a Chief Counsel Advice memorandum, which discussed the IRS position that cannabis companies could not rely on section 263A to determine COGS. Because the memo was not authoritative, many taxpayers rolled the dice and applied section 263A. We believe that following the Harborside decision, the risk of understating tax liabilities should be materially lower than tax periods occurring prior to it. We previously discussed the conclusion in Harborside and what it meant for cannabis companies here.

2. Section 168(k) adjustments. The so-called Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”) provides most taxpayers with immediate expensing of new and used property used in their trade or businesses under section 168(k). Cannabis companies subject to section 280E are limited to reducing their gross income by any depreciation capitalized into inventory and later reducing gross receipts as COGS.

3. Section 179 adjustments. The immediate expensing available under section 179 is subject to the disallowance provisions of section 280E. It is unlikely that a trafficking business would be entitled to bonus depreciation. Any mention of this on a tax return is likely to face scrutiny upon examination.

  • Taxpayers should review their 2015 – 2017 federal tax returns and determine whether any of the above items are readily identifiable. If they are, taxpayers should consider (1) filing amended tax returns, or (2) be prepared to concede the issue if the returns are examined. Taxpayers may also want to determine the applicable statute of limitations for an IRS examination. There is a risk that the statute of limitations is longer than the default rule of three years.
  • TIGTA notes the tension between access to banking and tax compliance. Many cannabis taxpayers face limited banking options. Taxpayers operating on an all-cash basis are more difficult to audit. Further, the IRS was not regularly comparing data reported on federal tax forms with data reported to state agencies. While the fate of federal banking legislation remains suspect at best, taxpayers should be prepared to reconcile any discrepancies between data reported to state regulators or banks with data reported to the IRS.
  • TIGTA made a number of recommendations to the IRS. The IRS agreed with most of these recommendations. However, the IRS noted multiple times that its activities are dependent upon agency priorities and available resources. The IRS response suggests that they are aware of the perceived problems, but we are unlikely to see any immediate responses. This response is similar to what the industry has seen with respect to federal enforcement in other areas. Those areas include the Controlled Substances Act (see Cole and Sessions memos), and the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act, where the FDA has taken limited enforcement action against companies adding CBD to food products. The IRS response feels similar.
  • TIGTA is concerned that cannabis taxpayers will take aggressive section 471(c) tax return positions. TCJA codified an exception to the inventory methodologies described in section 471 regulations for certain taxpayers with less than $25 million in gross receipts. The report states that “IRS Chief Counsel noted that practitioners assert that the new law may provide small business taxpayers wide latitude to characterize all expenditures as [COGS]. The effect of the new law is still uncertain” (emphasis supplied). Taxpayers with “applicable financial statements”—typically those with loan requirements to produce them—are probably stuck relying on an inventory methodology permitted by GAAP. Taxpayers without applicable financial statements will face the temptation to adopt aggressive accounting procedures, which require capitalizing indirect costs into COGS. The IRS appears ready to challenge aggressive positions, but they may face an uphill battle. Section 471(c)(1) eliminates the IRS’s ability to challenge a taxpayer’s method for determining COGS as clearly reflecting income. On the other hand, the IRS is likely to rely heavily on the Tax Court’s discussion of COGS in Harborside. The Tax Court repeatedly states, for purposes of Constitutional limits on taxing gross income, that COGS means gross receipts minus direct costs. We believe there is material risk the IRS will challenge any aggressive section 471(c) position that includes direct and indirect costs in calculating COGS. The IRS will likely argue cannabis taxpayers must calculate COGS by applying the Constitutional definition (direct costs only) and without regard to section 471 or the regulations.

Note: The report does not address or consider the rapid expansion and development of hemp within the U.S. Hemp businesses do not generally face the same tax consequences as cannabis trafficking businesses. However, they do face similar issues, such as access to banking. Because of the risk that some hemp producers could inadvertently produce illegal cannabis rather than hemp, additional guidance from the IRS on when hemp businesses would be considered trafficking and subject to section 280E could be helpful for industry participants and tax practitioners.

Things are developing rapidly on the COVID-19 front. Shortly after Monday’s blog post, Washington Governor Jay Inslee issued his “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order (see the video here and the state’s COVID-19 general guidance here), which orders Washingtonians to stay at home except for essential activities, and for all non-essential businesses to close. A list of the businesses deemed essential is available here.

Cannabis Businesses Deemed Essential

Cannabis retail stores have been deemed essential and may continue to stay open until further notice, provided these businesses enact measures intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including sanitary and social distancing measures. On the list of essential businesses, cannabis retailers are found under two sections:

Healthcare / Public Health

  • Workers in other medical facilities (including Ambulatory Health and Surgical, Blood Banks, Clinics, […] biotechnology therapies, consumer health products, cannabis retailers).

Food and Agriculture

  • Workers supporting cannabis retail and dietary supplement retail

Though not explicitly stated, cannabis producers and processors are almost certainly included as well, since their workers support cannabis retail. If businesses have any questions regarding this order, whether cannabis-related or not, they should talk to an experienced advisor.

WSLCB Further Relaxes Rules – Curbside Delivery

Monday’s blog post covered the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board’s (“WSLCB”) relaxation of curbside service for medical marijuana patients. Today, the WSLCB announced to stakeholders that this temporary policy has been extended to all customers. Though their guidance isn’t explicit on the actual purchase, this temporary policy means that cash may be exchanged for product outside of the store. The following restrictions still apply:

  • Drive-thru windows are not allowed
  • IDs must be checked – no one in the car may be less than 21 years of age
  • Curbside sales areas must be stationary and physically designated on the leasehold property, preferably as close to the building as possible.
    Examples of physical designations for curbside service include:

    • Tape or painted parking spots for vehicle parking
    • Cones or signage for vehicle parking
  • Where possible, video cameras monitoring and recording the designated sales area
  • Outdoor sales from a tent or kiosk are not allowed

WSLCB Further Relaxes Rules – Minors Allowed On-Site for Producers/Processors

Due to the current crisis, the WSLCB will also temporarily allow minors under 16 to be present on the premises of licensed producers and processors to accommodate families that have been impacted by school closures. This does not include retailers or transportation vehicles. This rule relaxation is effective until April 30, 2020 (or further notice). The following conditions must still be met:

  • The person under 16 years of age is a child or grandchild of the licensee;
  • The person under 16 years of age is not engaging in any work or act of employment for the licensed business; and
  • The person under 16 years of age does not possess any products associated with the production, processing, or sales of marijuana.

WSLCB updates related to COVID-19 can be seen here, though be aware that this webpage may change without notice. We will continue to monitor the situation closely.

UPDATE: Please see here for important updates to WSLCB policies.

COVID-19 created a state of emergency in the United States and around the world. Compounding the medical emergency is the economic one as the company faces a possible economic contraction not seen since the Great Depression; whole populations are being directed not to travel, restaurants and bars have been ordered to shut down, and whole industries are coming to a standstill.

In Washington and Oregon, many customer-facing businesses have been directed to shut down in an attempt to contain the virus. However, marijuana retail stores are being allowed to continue to be open to the public, provided they take adequate precautions. Curbside delivery is being allowed outside of stores, a first in Washington (though this is limited to medical marijuana patients). And finally, the U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) is now providing disaster assistance in the form of low-interest loans to qualifying small businesses. Marijuana businesses should be advised that they will almost certainly not qualify for these loans. Importantly, hemp businesses might qualify.

Curbside & Home Delivery


Under normal circumstances, Washington prohibits the delivery of marijuana from retail stores to customers, including patients. Registered medical marijuana patients still have to go to a retail store like anyone else, though they are eligible to grow up to four of their own plants and participate in cooperatives. All retail marijuana sales must be done within a retail store.

However, last week the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (“WSLCB”) stated that marijuana retailers will be temporarily allowed to sell to qualifying patients or their designated providers outside of the retailer’s business but “within the licensed property line.” Though the heading of the paragraph of the WSLCB’s guidance is “curbside service,” with the intention “to promote social distancing for qualified patients,” there does not appear to be further restrictions as to whether patients can (or must) be in a car, whether cash can be exchanged outside, or how closely the WSLCB will be monitoring these activities. The WSLCB stated that drive-through windows remain prohibited, and that the patients or designated providers must be registered with the Washington Department of Health. It is worth noting that the WSLCB has allowed greater flexibility with alcohol businesses.


Oregon is much less restrictive than Washington, and has previously allowed for home delivery. On March 22nd, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (“OLCC”) issued emergency rules permitting curbside delivery for marijuana retailers.  Oregon retailers not licensed for home delivery may remain open for business provided that they (1) designate an employee or officer to establish, implement, and enforce social distancing policies consistent with recent guidance from the Oregon Health Authority and Governor Kate Brown’s Executive Order 20-12 and (2) deliver marijuana products outside of the store and within one hundred and fifty (150) feet of the retailer’s licensed premises. The full guidance from the OLCC is located here. Retailers are not obligated to provide on-site delivery and should take steps to ensure employee safety. The OLCC recommends ensuring deliveries are within view of security cameras. In order take advantage of on-site deliveries, retailers must first take the customer’s order and include the following:

  • Recipient’s name and date of birth;
  • The date of requested delivery;
  • A document describing the marijuana items proposed for delivery and the amounts; and
  • Check the recipient’s documentation to verify the purchaser meets the relevant age requirement.

On-site delivery items do not require a printed manifest and should be entered into METRC the same way they do with an in-store sale.

SBA Loans – No on THC, Yes on Hemp

COVID-19 was officially made a “declared disaster” by the SBA recently in both Washington and Oregon. One thing this means for small businesses and private non-profits is that they may be eligible for up to $2 million in low-interest loans at interest rates of 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for private non-profits. However, the SBA’s current policy (effective April 3, 2018) is that “businesses engaged in any activity that is illegal under federal, state or local law are ineligible for SBA financial assistance.” Since marijuana (containing more than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol [“THC”]) is still a controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act, businesses producing or selling marijuana will be considered engaging in illegal activity, and will be ineligible to receive any relief from the SBA regardless of medical and economic disaster. This includes “indirect marijuana businesses” that derived any of its gross revenue from sales to “direct marijuana businesses.” Examples of indirect marijuana businesses include testing laboratories, grow lighting businesses, hydroponic or other specialized equipment businesses, and even legal and accounting services.

That policy was updated on February 15, 2019, following the legalization of hemp in the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, to clarify that hemp businesses are eligible for SBA loans. So while THC-containing marijuana companies cannot expect federal relief, hemp companies desiring assistance may want to explore this. The full policy is available here (see pp. 108-109).

Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Last week President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”).  The FFCRA requires some employers to pay specified employee sick leave and partially pay specified family medical leave related to COVID-19.  Marijuana companies should determine if the FFCRA requires them to cover paid sick or family and medical leave for their employees.

In order to minimize the burden on employers, Congress enacted refundable payroll tax credits.  The Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) is still working out the details and a redesigned payroll tax form.  However, marijuana businesses subject to section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code should proceed with caution.  The plain language of section 280E states “no deduction or credit shall be allowed for any amount paid or incurred during the year” (emphasis added).  It seems unlikely that Congress or the IRS will extend payroll tax credit benefits to marijuana businesses. However, hemp and other ancillary businesses not subject to section 280E are unlikely to face a similar fate.

The Washington State Legislature’s 2020 regular session is proceeding, and we will be covering bills as they develop. You can see Part 1 here and Part 2 here. Wednesday, February 19 was the house of origin cutoff, meaning generally that bills need to have passed out of their house of origin (House or Senate) in order to advance further this session. Most bills that become law meet the deadline, but some exceptions permit otherwise dead bills to advance.

Some Important Updates

HB 1974, (discussed in Part 2) which would establish a cannabis commission, was reintroduced into the House Appropriations Committee, passed (as a 2nd substitute bill) out of the committee and was referred to the Rules Committee. Stakeholders have indicated to us that the bill is unlikely to advance any further.

HB 2826, (also discussed in Part 2) which would clarify the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board’s (“WSLCB”) authority to regulate marijuana vapor products, was passed out of committee and passed on a full House vote nearly unanimously. It is now being considered in the Senate, where a hearing has been scheduled in the Senate Committee on Labor & Commerce.

Additionally, stakeholders have indicated that each the bills discussed in Part 1 are unlikely to advance. Those were HB 2361, which concerned industry workplace standards (often called the union bill), and HB 2263 / SB 6085, which would have removed the residency requirement and would have established a marijuana equity loan program.

HB 2870 – Allow additional marijuana retail licenses for social equity purposes

HB 2870 seeks to address inequity in the current cannabis industry “for individuals and communities most adversely impacted by the enforcement cannabis-related laws.” (We had reported on another social equity bill in Part 1, HB 2263, and that bill appears to have died.) HB 2870 was actually requested by the WSLCB and quickly made its way through three committees before passing out of the House. It is now being considered in the Senate, where a hearing has been scheduled in the Senate Committee on Labor & Commerce.

HB 2870 allows the WSLCB to issue (or reissue) new marijuana retail licenses that have been previously canceled for various reasons. WSLCB currently has 13 licenses that are available to be issued. These licenses would be issued only to “social equity applicants” who submit a “social equity plan.” A social equity applicant means:

(i) An applicant who has at least fifty-one percent ownership and control by one or more individuals who have resided for at least five of the preceding ten years in a disproportionately impacted area; or

(ii) An applicant who has at least fifty-one percent ownership and control by at least one individual who has been convicted of a marijuana offense or is a family member of such an individual.

The definition of “social equity plan” is longer but means a plan that addresses some of the intent of the bill, which is to ameliorate some of the harms done to neighborhoods that were disproportionately affected by the criminal justice system, particularly as a result of marijuana criminal offenses.

The fiscal note for HB 2870 shows that it would generate nearly $10 million in tax revenue for the state.

If passed, this bill would be the first legislative or administrative effort made in Washington to address the harms done by the War on Drugs, which preceded marijuana legalization.

SB 6057 – Concerning price differentials in the sale of marijuana

SB 6057 allows for price differentials in the sales of marijuana, either in longer-term contracts between licensees or in single transactions. Currently, WAC 314-55-018 prohibits such activities, as it states, “No industry member or licensee shall enter into any agreement which causes undue influence over another licensee or industry member.” The WSLCB essentially interprets that to mean no preferential treatment, and any differences in the pricing of products may indicate to the WSLCB “undue influence.” Under the bill, reasons for price differentials could include (but is not limited to) competitive conditions, costs of servicing a retailer, and the quantity purchased. Current WSLCB interpretation is in line with so-called tied house laws which are common in the alcohol industry.  SB 6057 would move away from tied house pricing restrictions and provide marketplace participants additional pricing options.

SB 6057 has passed out of the Senate and has been referred to the House.

SB 6206 – Creating a certificate of compliance for marijuana business premises that meet the statutory qualifications at the time of application

SB 6206 amends existing law and creates a certificate of compliance that the WSLCB must issue to marijuana businesses if the license application meets statutory requirements on the date of the application. Though not obvious by the bill’s text, the intended effect of this bill is to ameliorate activities by competitors that could result in a business being shut down for being non-compliant.

Senator Ann Rivers, the Republican whip who is known for her involvement in cannabis legislation, spoke on the need for this legislation:

[I]t has become common practice for competitors to prevent other businesses from entering into a place by throwing up a storefront, if you will, for a child care center or some other type of premise that prevents someone from actually opening a store that they have been going through the permitting for….  [A] cannabis store owner may spend millions of dollars to open a business only to have it shut down at the very last second.

These three bills have all passed out of their houses of origin and will be considered by the other half of the legislature. They have therefore advanced far more than most bills ever do, though that does not mean they are destined to become law. Stay tuned for more updates.

The Washington State Legislature’s 2020 regular session is proceeding, and we will be covering new bills as they develop. You can see Part 1 here.

Some Important Updates

SB 6393, the companion bill to HB 2361 that we discussed last week, passed out of the Senate Committee on Labor & Commerce by a 5-4 vote—split along party lines with Democrats in the majority—and has been referred to the Senate Ways & Means Committee. These bills would require all licensed cannabis businesses to implement certain labor requirements for their employees, which could include providing a living wage, offering benefits, or establishing an agreement with a union (there are other business practices that would count as well). Since Democrats control both the House and the Senate, there is a good chance that this bill will pass, but it still has a long way to go.

HB 1974Establishing the Washington cannabis commission

HB 1974 would create an agricultural commodity commission known as the Washington Cannabis Commission. Commissions are public entities overseen by the Washington Department of Agriculture, and they exist to promote the general welfare of specific agricultural commodities in the state, particularly with the sale and distribution of the respective commodity. The Wine Commission and Apple Commission are both examples of current commissions. Commissions levy an assessment upon all affected producers and use the funds collected to promote the industry, often with marketing and research. This assessment cannot exceed three percent under state law.

HB 1131 – Allowing residential marijuana agriculture

Prefiled alongside SB 5155 in the Senate, HB 1131 would allow persons 21 and over to grow up to six marijuana plants in their homes. The plants and their products made from those plants would be required to have the owner’s clearly labeled contact information, and they could only be used for noncommercial purposes. Landlords would be allowed to prohibit renters from growing marijuana on their premises.

The aforementioned bill is known as “homegrow” within the industry, and similar bills have been introduced nearly every year since 2015. This year is the first year that such a bill has been before the powerful Appropriations Committee, meaning this may be the year that homegrow advances to a legislative vote. Of the 11 states that have legalized marijuana for adult use, Washington is the only state that does not allow the personal cultivation of marijuana for nonmedical purposes. Current law does allow medical patients to grow marijuana, but they must register with the Department of Health.

HB 2826 – Clarifying the authority of the liquor and cannabis board to regulate marijuana vapor products

This bill comes in the wake of last year’s vaping crisis, some of which we covered here and here. The bill would codify the emergency rule enacted late last year defining “characterizing flavor” and provide the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (“WSLCB”) with broader rulemaking authority concerning marijuana vapor products. The WSLCB would be empowered to regulate devices “used in conjunction with a marijuana vapor product” and additives in marijuana products. However, its authority would have to be in conjunction with the Department of Health.

HB 2826 is an important bill because it will provide the WSLCB with broader authority to regulate marijuana products, both their ingredients and how they are made. The issue of what defined a “characterizing flavor” late last year affected the industry significantly, as many producers and processors add terpenes and other compounds to marijuana products. Furthermore, the House Appropriations Committee passed the bill unanimously and has been referred to the House Rules Committee for a second reading. If it passes that committee, there is a good chance that it will be heard on the house floor.

The Washington state legislature is currently in session, and legislators have introduced numerous bills relating to the cannabis industry. While it is too early to know which bills will advance and which will not, below is a summary of two noteworthy bills generating buzz that was discussed last month in the Washington State House Commerce & Gaming Committee. We will discuss more bills in the near future.

HB 2361 – Concerning cannabis industry workplace standards

HB 2361 would implement a point system when cannabis licensees are up for their annual renewal. It would require the licensee to accrue at least 100 points, as determined by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (“WSLCB”), to qualify for license renewal. There are nine different categories in which licensees may accrue points, and all relate to worker standards. For example, having a labor peace agreement in effect would be worth 40 points, while a collective bargaining agreement covering the licensee’s employees would be worth 60 points. Failure to reach 100 points allows the WSLCB to put the licensee on a 6-month remedial period, and licensees will face non-renewal if the threshold is not met.

This bill is rather controversial. The bill has many licensees concerned over the economic impact of what could prove to be a de facto requirement to unionize. There may be some negotiation over exempting businesses small enough (based on the number of employees).

HB 2263 – Expanding opportunities for marijuana businesses by removing residency barriers and providing access to capital for minority and women-owned businesses through a fee on certain investments.

Another controversial bill, HB 2263, concerns additional opportunities for minority and women-owned marijuana businesses by providing access to capital and low- or no-interest loans. The bill would direct the Department of Commerce to establish a marijuana equity loan program that would be administered by a marijuana equity advisory board. The program would be funded by administering a transaction fee of 1% “from any investor or financier on any financial contribution made by the investor or financier to a licensed marijuana business[.]” It appears that these sections of the bill are an attempt to provide entrepreneurs with access to small business loans. Such access is lacking in the private sector, where banks and credit unions still largely do not engage with the cannabis industry.

Furthermore, the bill would completely remove the requirement that owners be a Washington resident, and it would not require owners with less than 10% of a license to be listed as a named party on the license. Simply put, this section would transform the Washington cannabis industry, so the bill has generated significant discussion within the industry.

The bill does not seem to adequately account for ways in which licensees would attempt to circumvent the transaction fee, which can be difficult to predict. Additionally, “minority” is not a defined term within the bill, though the Department of Commerce (named within the bill) could elect to follow the definition used by the Washington State Office of Minority & Women’s Business Enterprises.

The Bottom Line:

Aside from generating buzz, there’s a common theme with both of these bills: many within the industry support the goals in spirit but take issue with the implementation of the goals. Based on conversations from within the industry, it is unlikely that HB 2263 will advance, though the fate of HB 2361 is unclear. I have spoken with numerous smaller licensees who state that they broadly support unionizing labor, but forcing it on them would incur significant additional expense and ultimately put them out of business. The devil is in the details.

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) regulations for issuing retail cannabis licenses prohibit, among other things, a retail cannabis business within 1000 feet of the “perimeter of the grounds” of a school. In Top Cat Enterprises, LLC v. City of Arlington, a retail cannabis license recipient sought to move from Marysville, which had just passed a ban on marijuana retailers, to Arlington, where only one retail license was available. Top Cat challenged the license that had been issued to another retailer for a location on one of the Arlington Municipal Airport’s more than 100 parcels. The Arlington School District leases another lot at the 1200 acre airport and, depending on how the distance is measured, the school is either 1600 feet or 100 feet from the cannabis retailer. The ruling issued January 6, 2020 by Division One of the Washington Court of Appeals held that the correct measurement is from leased lot line to leased lot line, not from the property line of the retailer to the property line of the larger airport property.

After Top Cat could not get a license for an Arlington location, it brought an administrative challenge to WSLCB’s denial and to the issuance of a retail license to 172nd Street Cannabis. An administrative hearing officer ruled that the regulatory definition of “property line” includes leased lot lines and subleases and, therefore, the license to 172nd Street Cannabis was not in error because the retailer’s lot line is more than 1000 feet from the sublease lot line for the school. Top Cat appealed to Snohomish County Superior Court, which affirmed the hearing officer and Division One affirmed in a published opinion.

The regulations at issue provide that the 1000 foot distance “shall be measured as the shortest straight line distance from the property line of the proposed building/business location to the property line of * * * (a) [an] elementary or secondary school.” WAC 314-55-050(10). Top Cat contended “property line” means the legal description in the deed that describes the boundaries of a real property. WSLCB, relying on a 1987 Washington Supreme Court case, Mall, Inc. v. City of Seattle, argued that the usual and ordinary meaning of “property line” is “those lines which separate one’s lot from adjoining lots or the street.” The Court of Appeals agreed with WSLCB.

The court said the regulation is unambiguous, and therefore it is unnecessary to consider the legislative history of the regulation and its amendments. In addition to the interpretation in Mall, WSLCB also relied on two dictionaries that defined the property line as “the boundary line between two pieces of property.” The court of appeals ruled that includes a leased lot line. Furthermore, the court noted that the cannabis statute, RCW 69.50.331(8)(a), does not mention “property line” and only states that a marijuana business must be 1,000 feet from the perimeter of the grounds of a restricted entity. The court said that the regulation mirrors the statute, explains that the measurement is the shortest distance between two property lines, and defines “perimeter” as “a property line that encloses an area.” Consequently, the court held that WSLCB’s measurement of the 1600 foot distance between the school and the 172nd Street Cannabis lot was consistent with the statute and the regulation.

In a footnote, the court of appeals posed a hypothetical to demonstrate that Top Cat’s interpretation could lead to absurd results–The federal government owns Olympic National Park and leases a parcel on the west side of the park to a Native American tribe for a whale study school. On the east side of the park, within 1000 feet of the park boundary, a retail cannabis business seeks a license from WSLCB. Although the driving distance between the whale school and the retail location would be more than 100 miles, the court said under Top Cat’s interpretation the measured distance would be between the proposed cannabis business and the eastern edge of the park, not the lease line for the school. According to the court, “This would result in a denial of a license for the proposed cannabis business even though the driving distance between the two entities would be over 100 miles. This cannot be what the legislature or WSLCB meant when it used the terms perimeter or property line.”

It’s uncertain whether the Court of Appeals’ decision will be reviewed by the Washington Supreme Court. Meanwhile, because it is a first of its kind, the ruling could provide guidance not only to cases in Washington, but also in any other state, such as Oregon, that uses a similar 1000-foot prohibition.

Ben Pirie and Josh Ashby will be representing Lane Powell’s Cannabis Team at the Marijuana Business Conference (“MJBizCon”) next week, December 11-13, in Las Vegas. If you are interested in talking cannabis and hemp law (or learning more about Lane Powell’s Cannabis Team), connect with us to meet up while we’re there!

MJBizCon is the largest marijuana conference in the world, dedicated to the future growth of the expanding Cannabis industry and those who work in it. Bringing together cannabis professionals, growers, distributors, innovators and thought leaders from around the world, MJBizCon helps companies grow their businesses, display new cutting-edge innovations, and share how cannabis businesses are growing in a rapidly advancing market.

On November 19, the World Law Group held a webinar on vaping and the legal issues related to the current controversy in the U.S., and anticipated developments in Europe.

Listen to Josh Ashby and Pilar French’s insight on the legal issues regarding:

    • Legal distinctions between tobacco and cannabis with respect to vaping;
    • How different U.S. states are handling the vaping controversy;
    • How is products liability insurance being affected;
    • Risk mitigation for cannabis and tobacco companies; and
    • Other related issues

Join the World Law Group for an upcoming webinar on vaping and the legal issues related to the current controversy in the U.S. and anticipated developments in Europe—all WLG members, lawyers and clients are welcome to join us on November 19, 2019, from 8 – 9 a.m. PST,.

The webinar will focus on legal issues, including:

  • Vaporizing and what it is;
  • What we know about vaporizing health implications for tobacco and cannabis;
  • Differences between tobacco and cannabis with respect to vaping;
  • How different U.S. states are banning vaping;
  • What we have seen in insurance policies;
  • Risk mitigation for cannabis and tobacco companies; and
  • Other issues such as the impact on valuation of cannabis companies

Lane Powell will be represented by attorneys Josh Ashby and Pilar French as key speakers in the online event.

Register today!