WA: Hiring Firm Prevails In Cannabis Farm’s Legal Appeal

Photo Credit: Christopher Chung

An East Wenatchee human resources firm did not breach its contract with an Okanogan County cannabis farm that still owes it more than $37,000, the Court of Appeals ruled.

Antoine Creek Farms failed in its appeal of an Okanogan County judge’s ruling, with the three-judge appellate panel saying the cannabis producer could not blame Work-Force Solutions Inc. for difficulties in profiting from its 2014-2015 crop.

The cannabis company, which in 2015 partnered with Tommy Chong on a branded line of marijuana products, struck an oral agreement with Work-Force the year before to hire pre-screened laborers. Beginning March 2014, Work-Force provided workers as needed and handled drug testing and background checks required by Antoine Creek Farms.

“… Not all individuals sent to the farm by Work-Force were good fits for the work,” Appellate Judge Kevin Korsmo wrote for the unanimous panel. “On occasion, workers arrive(d) without proper clothing or otherwise failed to perform. There also were occasions where temporary workers were caught smoking marijuana on the premises and were fired.”

By September, the farm had fallen behind on payments to Work-Force by almost $33,000, but told the hiring company it needed more workers and to ease restrictions on hiring those with “light” criminal records. Payments to Work-Force continued to fall behind, and the hiring firm sued in June 2015.

Okanogan County Superior Court Judge Christopher Culp ruled in Work-Force’s favor in April 2016, dismissing Antoine Creek Farms’ counterclaims that Work-Force had failed to provide qualified workers, failed to properly screen workers and refused to permit Antoine Creek to hire them directly. Culp also ruled that the cannabis company had not proven that it suffered losses directly attributable to the laborers Work-Force provided.

The appellate decision upholds Culp’s ruling. “Antoine simply has no evidence that the workers who appeared somehow impacted the company’s bottom line,” Korsmo wrote. “The trial court correctly determined that Antoine could not show it was damaged by Work-Force’s alleged failures.”

Antoine Creek Farms has registered $1.19 million in sales since its opening in 2014, according to 502data.com, making it eighth in overall sales among Okanogan County producers.