Arrow-right Camera

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Sunday, December 09, 2018  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
32˚Partly Cloudy Night

News >  Marijuana

Lincoln County marijuana growers sues Avista alleging breach of contract

UPDATED: Wed., Dec. 5, 2018, 9:34 p.m.

Almost mature marijuana plants show are shown here at  Phat Panda, the largest cannabis growing operation in Spokane, shown Wednesday, April 11, 2018. A Lincoln County operation, Buddy Boy Farms, has sued Avista over an alleged breach of agreement. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Almost mature marijuana plants show are shown here at Phat Panda, the largest cannabis growing operation in Spokane, shown Wednesday, April 11, 2018. A Lincoln County operation, Buddy Boy Farms, has sued Avista over an alleged breach of agreement. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

One of the first legal marijuana producers in Lincoln County has filed a lawsuit against the region’s electricity provider alleging the breach of an agreement to power up an expansion of their operation south of Ford.

Buddy Boy Farms alleges that Avista Utilities Corp. provided inadequate equipment to handle the load of nine additional greenhouses the farm constructed in the middle of 2016. Originally agreeing to 1,200 amps of power, according to the lawsuit filed Nov. 2 in Spokane County Superior Court, the utility instead only provided equipment that could handle a third of that load, resulting in an explosion that stymied Buddy Boy’s planned expansion for several months in the winter of that year. No one was injured in the explosion.

It was properly planned out, said Jed Morris, the Spokane attorney with the firm Lukins & Annis representing Buddy Boy Farms in the lawsuit, but “for no apparent reason, they just installed equipment that was inadequate.”

David Vowels, a communication manager at Avista, said the company could not comment on pending litigation. But the utility does not discriminate against cannabis growers, he said.

“We treat these customers as we would any other corporate customer,” Vowels said. “They give us an estimated load and we plan accordingly.”

The lawsuit alleges Buddy Boy Farms was required to pay for certain equipment and the relocation of an electricity pole following the explosion. Vowels said in an email that rates are regulated, and thus the cost of connecting to the grid is passed on to Avista customer.

The lawsuit does not specify an amount of damages sought by Buddy Boy Farms. Morris said the explosion, which melted Avista’s infrastructure and destroyed some of the lights and heating devices the farm had purchased, occurred in November 2016 just as the winter chill set in, during a season that saw a historic dumping of snow, prompting the farm to invest in space heaters to keep their plant starts warm.

“This is a capital-intensive business,” Morris said. “You can’t get banks to give you money. You’ve got to ramp up production using revenue.”

Buddy Boy has recovered from the financial loss, posting sales figures in August that jumped 369 percent compared to the same month in 2017, according to data reported by the state’s Liquor and Cannabis Board. But that process was delayed by the issue with Avista, Morris said.

Avista had not filed any documents responding to Buddy Boy’s allegations as of Wednesday afternoon. The case is scheduled for a court hearing in February.


Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter

Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter

There was a problem subscribing you to the newsletter. Double check your email and try again, or email webteam@spokesman.com

You have been successfully subscribed!