By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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Clallam County Community Development Director Sheila Roark Miller had objected to the state’s July decision that the studio’s proximity to the proposed Hidden Bush marijuana store at 2840 E. U.S. Highway 101 would not preclude the cannabis shop from opening there.
Initiative 502, which legalized recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older, prohibits marijuana businesses from locating within 1,000 feet of a school, park or other areas where children congregate.
State officials ruled July 14 that the nonprofit studio at 3318 E. Acorn Lane did not fit the definition of a recreation center.
Becky Smith, marijuana licensing and regulation manager for the state Liquor Control Board, told Roark Miller in a Tuesday email that the studio does fit the definition.
“The license has not and will not be approved for the location as we agree with the local authority it is within 1,000 feet of a restricted entity,” Smith wrote.
Brian Smith, state Liquor Control Board spokesman, said Hidden Bush was “kind of a special case” that required more investigation.
Although the gymnastics studio is not a school, is it used by students from Port Angeles and Sequim as a community recreation center.
“We knew we’d have to look into that a little more, and we did,” he said.
“It was one of those that falls into a gray area.”
Roark Miller requested an adjudicative hearing on the Hidden Bush license July 25.
“I’m ecstatic,” she said Tuesday.
“I’m really happy for the operators of the nonprofit.”
Roark Miller said she would work with Hidden Bush owner Heather Owen to find a “more suitable location” for the marijuana business east of Port Angeles in which “both sides win.”
Owen was not immediately available for comment Tuesday.
Her attorney, Robert McVay, said Hidden Bush is considering its options.
“Their options at this point are to appeal the state decision or to move locations,” McVay said.
Brian Smith said the Hidden Bush would likely be sited elsewhere in Clallam County.
He said there was a similar case in Bellevue in which the owners of a pot shot wanted to open near a Girl Scout administrative building.
The Liquor Board determined that the building was used for Scout meetings and denied the license.
The Hidden Bush was one of three retail marijuana shops drawn in a lottery for first consideration in unincorporated Clallam County.
Also drawn were High Grade Organics, 100 LaPush Road, Suite 602, Forks; and Weed-R-Us, 2941 E. U.S. Highway 101, Port Angeles.
Two more licenses are allowed for shops in Port Angeles and one more in Sequim, which has a moratorium.
Jefferson County was allowed four licenses for retail stores: one in Port Townsend and three anywhere else.
So far, the only North Olympic Peninsula pot shop to open its doors is Sea Change Cannabis in Discovery Bay.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.