Former pot dispensary owner files billion-dollar claim against Olympia

OlympianMarch 24, 2014 

A former medical marijuana dispensary owner has filed a claim for $1 billion against Olympia.

Louis Johnson says the city is stonewalling his efforts to re-open Oly-Dam Patients Market on Washington Street across from the Olympia Transit Center.

Johnson had plans to build a performance space and glass-blowing studio at Oly-Dam, which measures 6,100 square feet. Due to a lack of building permits, the city condemned Oly-Dam in May 2013 after only a month in business. The city subsequently passed a moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries.

Johnson filed the notarized claim on March 21. In the claim, he seeks damages of $1 billion to make up for lost income and future income.

The city has 13 medical marijuana dispensaries that were allowed to remain open. Although he lacked the proper permits at the time, Johnson said Oly-Dam should have been grandfathered in with the others.

“This right here is going to bring people to Olympia,” he said of the potential economic benefits from marijuana tourists.

Since the closure of Oly-Dam, Johnson has hired an architect to draw up blueprints for the site. Earlier this month, he paid the city a $250 inspection fee.

Time is running out for Johnson to make something happen with Oly-Dam before his landlord finds another tenant, he said. The landlord, Jemy Yu, owns the Washington Market next door and has needs a deposit on the Oly-Dam site.

Johnson, who has not pursued a legal recreational license, said he filed the claim as a last-ditch effort to open as a medical marijuana facility.

“I’m hoping they’ll pull the reins off me and let me just build this with no more problems,” he said, noting that compensation from the city is less of a priority. “If they promise to leave me alone and let me open this, then I’m OK.”

Upon hearing about the claim for $1 billion, City Manager Steve Hall noted that the amount is “a little more than we have right now.” Although the city allows recreational marijuana outlets under the new state law, the moratorium still exists for medical marijuana dispensaries. Hall said there are plans to review the medical marijuana rules in the near future.

City attorneys will also review Johnson’s claim, said Hall, noting that this is the largest claim he has seen in 25 years.

In 1996, the Hardel Mutual Plywood mill on West Bay Drive caught fire, and the mill filed a claim against the city for $46 million. It was one of the worst fires in Olympia history, according to archive reports. Hardel had claimed the city’s water supply was inadequate and had prevented the sprinklers from extinguishing the fire. In 2003, the city and Hardel settled for $4.95 million, according to The Olympian’s archives.

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869 or

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