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State marijuana regulators fire employee who leased Deer Park land for growing operation

UPDATED: Fri., June 2, 2017, 12:23 p.m.

FILE – Marijuana plants near maturity in an outdoor grow near Deer Park on Oct. 5, 2015. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
FILE – Marijuana plants near maturity in an outdoor grow near Deer Park on Oct. 5, 2015. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Washington’s Liquor and Cannabis Board, the state agency that regulates marijuana, is firing an employee who leased land in Deer Park to a prospective pot grower.

Grant Bulski’s termination will take effect June 9, agency spokesman Brian Smith wrote in an email. Bulski had been leasing 25 acres to Jeff Montgomery – a Hollywood producer turned marijuana entrepreneur – for $2,834 a month since October. Montgomery planned to build a large growing and processing facility on the land, at 6351 W. Whitmore Hill Road.

Part of the reason for the firing is that Bulski violated ethics rules that prohibit agency employees from having a financial stake in marijuana businesses, Smith wrote. Other details might be obtained through a public records request, he wrote.

“The decision was based upon the results of the personnel investigation in its entirety,” Smith wrote.

The Liquor and Cannabis Board started investigating after a Spokesman-Review reporter inquired about Bulski’s business ties in April. He joined the agency in 2006 overseeing liquor store licenses in Eastern Washington. He was transferred to Olympia in 2012 and most recently worked as a marijuana licensing specialist.

Bulski didn’t respond to emails on Thursday.

His conflict of interest was known to neighbors of the proposed pot farm in Deer Park. Many opposed the plans because of concerns about water use, property values and marijuana odor, as well as a perception that the farm would attract criminal activity.

The Liquor and Cannabis Board suspended Montgomery’s application for the facility in April, and he later abandoned the plans, citing the backlash from neighbors.

Records provided by the Liquor and Cannabis Board contain no indication that Bulski helped issue a license for the farm on his own land. But it was not the first time he and Montgomery crossed paths. Last summer, in his role as a licensing specialist, Bulski oversaw the sale of Montgomery’s pot farm in Tacoma.

In some cases, state employees who violate ethics rules face fines from the Executive Ethics Board. Bulski’s case, however, has been handled internally by the Liquor and Cannabis Board.

“The agency can refer the investigation to us, but so far no one has done that,” Ruthann Bryant, the ethics board’s administrative officer, said Friday.

Montgomery said Thursday he’s found a new place to grow pot in Okanogan County.

“I am positive the new landlord does not work for the LCB,” he said.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on June 2, 2017 to include information from the state Executive Ethics Board.