YAKIMA — The Washington state Court of Appeals has sided with Yakima County’s efforts to shut down marijuana retailer Sticky Budz and other cannabis companies in unincorporated areas.

The three-member appellate court panel ruled Tuesday that the county has legal authority to ban recreational marijuana businesses from unincorporated areas, the Yakima-Herald Republic reported.

Sticky Budz started challenging the ban four years ago, arguing the county should be bound by a voter-approved initiative that legalized recreational marijuana and established a state-regulated market.

A judge ruled in 2018 that the county had the legal authority and Sticky Budz appealed.

Before the county announced plans to enforce the ban, there were more than 20 cannabis companies operating in unincorporated areas of the county, officials said. There are three, but two are expected to close this summer.

“I think more than anything it’s sad that our county commissioners are pushing out businesses that are bringing economic growth and jobs for our community,” CEO Jamie Muffett said. “It is what it is, but other great communities like Union Gap and other counties that allow it are benefiting.”

Advertising

The judges cited other cases and said the state initiative did not prevent local governments from banning marijuana operations.

“It also held that local prohibition of the sale of marijuana does not thwart the state law’s purpose, because the state law’s purpose is to regulate, not to promote or encourage the sale, production, or use of marijuana,” Judge Laurel Siddoway said.

The state-licensed grower and processor outside the small Yakima County city of Zillah has already moved its operations about 16 miles away to the city of Union Gap, where retailers are permitted to do business.