Washington Authorities Shut Down Delinquent Pot Company, Burn 2,000 Plants

Photo by Brian Jahn

Nobody really likes paying taxes, and so some of us don’t. But we’ve never heard of a tax delinquent’s house burned down by a militant IRS in retribution.

Frontier justice isn’t exactly what happened to Nine Point Growth Industries, the second recreational marijuana company in Washington to receive a state license—though authorities putting the tax-owing company out of business by storming the company’s grow house, seizing 2,000 plants and clones and destroying them in a scene reminiscent of the American opium wars a century ago is awfully close.

The Kitsap Sun recounts the fate of the delinquent West Bremerton, Washington-based company and its end last week in spectacular fashion at the hand of state Liquor and Cannabis Board agents.

Nine Point grew and sold cannabis in the working-class town on the other side of Puget Sound from Seattle starting in 2014. It did some things right: The company was one of the very first cannabis producers to successfully provide marijuana to recreational dispensaries at the beginning of legal sales that year, a time when so few legal producers were in business that supply was so limited the price of a gram briefly exceeded an astronomical $20. According to the company, Nine Point grew the very first legal marijuana product sold on the Washington recreational market and was producing high-end OGs and other strains as late as last month.

But Nine Point never quite got in the habit of paying taxes. At one point, according to the newspaper, the company owed $112,000 in taxes, on $953,000 worth of cannabis product sold. Owner Gregory Stewart would occasionally catch up before falling behind again, racking up eight violations from the state control board in the process.

By early January, the state had had enough. Owed $29,000, authorities gave Stewart and the company an ultimatum: Pay, or be shut down.

The company didn’t respond, according to the paper, so the state gave another ultimatum: Sell everything in stock by Feb. 1. When that also didn’t happen, agents rolled in to destroy the 2,000 plants and clones left.

This is the first time state regulators have taken such drastic measures against a delinquent taxpayer, the newspaper reported. As for why Stewart let things go so far, it’s anyone’s guess; he didn’t respond to a request for comment from the paper.

Let it be a lesson for the 954 other producers of cannabis licensed in Washington: Pay your taxes. The state will ask nicely only so many times before throwing you to the curb.  

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