Pierce County orders closure of Parkland pot business

UPDATE, Thursday (March 5) 1 p.m.: Pierce County ordered the closure of The Gallery on Thursday.

County spokesman Hunter George reiterated that the business has 14 days to appeal the notice. The county has told the recreational marijuana retailer to cease operations and stop selling marijuana product, George said. Before it can reopen for business, it must obtain a conditional use permit, though the county can’t issue one due to its ban on pot businesses.

If The Gallery fails to comply with the notice it could face fines of up to $1,000 per day or criminal charges. The county could also seek a court order to secure the building.

The owner of the property has also been notified of its shared responsibility for curing the violation and the potential for penalties, George said.

ORIGINAL STORY: A Parkland marijuana business was served a notice of violation by Pierce County on Wednesday, just three days after opening without the proper permits.

The Gallery, 13005 Pacific Ave. S., opened Sunday despite a county ban on recreational marijuana businesses.

County spokesman Hunter George said the county’s building official notified the business that it lacks a required tenant occupancy permit, which is related to the building that the business occupies.

The business also lacks another permit — a conditional use permit — that it can’t acquire based on the county’s rules barring pot shops. (The county won’t issue permits to businesses that don’t comply with federal law; marijuana is considered a Schedule I narcotic by the federal government.)

Pierce County Responds, the program that investigates complaints about code enforcement, has visited the business several times and notified owner Tedd Wetherbee that the conditional use permit is necessary to operate his business; another notice to correct that will likely be issued.

George said the process is “very cordial” and slow moving, and the business won’t face penalties right away.

The Gallery has 14 days to respond to each noncompliance notice it receives; otherwise it could face fines up to $1,000 a day.

There’s a minimum 92-day process for challenging a marijuana business that operates despite the county’s ban. That includes notices, site visits and potential appeals.

Wetherbee said he plans to apply for a tenant occupancy permit, but said he won’t apply for the conditional use permit, since the county has no intention of granting it.

He plans to appeal the notice for the latter, should the county issue it, and intends to follow the procedures that he calls a “waste of taxpayer money and effort.”

“We’re hoping the county comes to their senses on this matter,” he said.

Wetherbee — who is also planning to open pot shops in Gig Harbor and Fife — is involved in a lawsuit with the city of Fife over its ban on pot businesses. A judge upheld the ban last year, but Wetherbee appealed the decision.