Mt. Calvary Christian Center Church of God in Christ announced that they have filed a lawsuit against the Washington State Liquor Control Board, the City of Seattle and Ian Eisenberg, owner of Uncle Ike’s Pot Shop, a recreational marijuana retailer that recently opened within 400 feet of Mt. Calvary in Seattle’s Central District.
The lawsuit, formally filed in King County, seeks to revoke the state license to operate the Uncle Ike’s retail establishment located at 2310 East Union St. and to establish appropriate due process for future proposed operations with notice and opportunity to comment.
“Our due process has been violated, and we have been disrespected by Washington state and the City of Seattle, who failed to give notice of this application and have neglected to enforce their own rules,” said Rev. Reggie Witherspoon, pastor of Mt. Calvary. “This marijuana retailer is clearly in violation of law – it’s located less than 1,000 feet from our own Joshua Generation Teen Center, as well as a public park. The city and state are arbitrarily enforcing their laws, abusing their discretion and discriminating against our neighborhood.”
According to Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) rules, a marijuana retailer cannot set up a store within 1,000 feet of certain places, including any recreation center or facility. Uncle Ike’s is located within 400 feet of Mt. Calvary’s youth center. Despite the outside paved fence area, outdoor lights and two basketball courts, the Liquor Control Board determined that Mt. Calvary was not a recreation center and did not discuss with Rev. Witherspoon before making their decision.
“I have a duty to my churchgoers and the youth who are trying to get away from this type of negative influence,” Witherspoon said. “Despite the hard work our neighborhood has contributed to fight this issue, I’m worried that a ‘Little Amsterdam’ is being created, and we won’t stand for it. We won’t stop until this shop is shut down.”
According to Witherspoon, no evidence of notice of the granting of the license can be found, and the city later admitted in conversations with Witherspoon that notice was not provided. Witherspoon also alleges that Eisenberg, the owner of the shop, also misrepresented the facts, telling him there would not be a marijuana retailer next to the church. The same alleged falsehood was made in the retailer’s initial licensing documentation.
“We have spent too many years trying to remove the substance abuse problem from Seattle’s Central District neighborhood for a shop like Uncle Ike’s to be placed next door to an institution that has been part of the solution,” said Gregory K. Alex, MA, CDC, executive director and founder of The Matt Talbot Center, a state licensed substance abuse treatment facility. “It is an affront to those trying to raise drug-free children and brings into question those who make decisions about use compatibility in our inner city.”
Respect the Central District, a group of neighbors who support respectful redevelopment of the Central District, recently formed and joined the petition against Uncle Ike’s. Members of the group have expressed concern to the City of Seattle about clustering of marijuana retailers in the Central District and received assurances from the city that this would not occur.
“Neither we nor any other neighbors were given any notice when the City agreed to allow clustering of pot and pot paraphernalia shops in the heart of the Central District,” said Knoll Lowney, a representative from the organization. “Without notice, there was no way for the church or the community to express their concerns about the location, even though the WSLCB rules envision a city objecting to a license ‘due to community or other concerns about requested location.”
Opponents of the “Po Shop” believe that the City of Seattle is not following through on it’s Race and Social Justice Initiative, which claims to have “a commitment to: end institutionalized racism in City government; promote inclusion and full participation of all residents in civic life; and partner with the community to achieve racial equity across Seattle.”
“The city is condoning a discriminatory and disrespectful licensing process, which is the complete antithesis of the ending of institutional racism they claim to support,” Witherspoon said. “We are not being included; we are not being allowed to participate; and we are clearly not achieving racial equity.”
Rallies in support of shutting down the Pot Shop are planned in front of City Hall and in Olympia next week urging them to take swift and immediate action on this issue.