County coughs over new Freeland pot biz sign

Whidbey Island Cannabis Co. relocated to Freeland last week and introduced itself with a billboard-size sign near Highway 525.

One idea may have been better than the other. While the move was smoother than a puff of Blue Dream, the huge sign went down a bit harsher — more like stale brick weed.

Black with the business name in large white lettering, the sign was located in front of the building at the intersection of Scott Road and Highway 525 and quickly became the subject of public criticism. Some complained that it broke county code. Others felt it was inappropriate to so loudly advertise a recreational marijuana businesses despite the fact that they’re now legal in Washington.

Complaints rolled into the county commissioner’s office, and it wasn’t long before the issue landed on the desks of county regulators. Turns out the sign didn’t comply with county rules and the business’s owners were contacted.

“They were called and asked to remove it,” confirmed Hiller West, director of Island County Planning and Community Development.

The request wasn’t an official enforcement order, he said, but it was made following a review by department code enforcement officials. The sign exceeded the county’s 40 square-foot cap for business signs.

It was taken down voluntarily early this week.

Maureen Cooke, who owns the business with Seattle businessman Drew Elliott, said the sign may have also run afoul with rules outlined by the state Liquor and Cannabis Control Board; it caps retail marijuana signs at 1,600 square inches, she said.

According to Cooke, the board is about to begin a study that will reexamine its sign rules. It may take months. She said the shop will be in sign limbo until it’s complete as it won’t invest in a new sign until the new regulations are hammered out.

Losing the large sign has also had a detrimental effect on the move.

“Since it’s been down, it has cut into our sales,” she said. “People don’t realize it’s (the business) there.”

She also noted that not everyone disliked the sign, that she’s received compliment from some who liked its size and placement.

Whidbey Island Cannabis Co. was the first retail marijuana business on Whidbey Island. Its original location on Kramer Road was cramped and “hotter than Haiti,” said Cooke, so she and Elliott decided to pack up and move into the old real estate building on the corner of Scott Road.

The shop opened in the new location on Thursday, Aug. 31. Cooke invited the public to come down and see the new digs, saying it was much nicer than the last location.