Cannabis Licensing Battle Opens Another Front

Pasadena residents file petition for initiative to modify City ordinance to allow previously unlicensed pot shop owners to apply

Published : Monday, February 18, 2019 | 5:48 AM

The battle over unlicensed cannabis dispensaries in Pasadena opened another front last week as a group of Pasadena residents filed a “Notice of Intention to Circulate an Initiative Petition” to modify the City’s Measure CC ordinance—specifically, to allow unlicensed marijuana shops in Pasadena to legally apply for cannabis licenses to continue their operations.

According to Pasadena Public Information Officer Lisa Derderian, the next step in the initiative petition process is for the City Attorney to prepare a ballot title and summary of the proposed initiative’s meaning and its effect, should the initiative collect sufficient signatures to qualify for the ballot.

The petition’s filing was confirmed by Derderian and City Clerk Mark Jomsky.

Neither was able to state for the record how many signatures would be needed for the initiative to qualify for the ballot.

Though unlikely, the City could also allow the modifications in the initiative to simply go forward and the existing ordinance be modified, upon agreement by the City Council, if enough residents sign the petition to support such an initiative.

The petition was filed by Bradley Hertz of the San Francisco-based Summit Law firm. Hertz represents Golden State Collective, which has been battling the City over the right to apply for licensing.

Hertz is also the attorney of record for the recent recall petition against Councilmember Victor Gordo initiated by Golden State Collective Owner Shaun Szameitz.

The initiative petition delivered to City Clerk Jomsky is called ‘The ‘People’s Initiative to Preserve the Existing Operation of Non-Offending Commercial Cannabis Businesses.’

Filed by Elizabeth Cortez, Susan Gomez and Alan Jay, it says, that the current version of the Pasadena Municipal Code precludes non-offending commercial cannabis businesses from operating legally at their present location if the non-offending commercial cannabis businesses is located in a commercial or industrial zone which is adjacent to a residential zone.

“The City lacks sufficient available business locations to allow non-offending commercial cannabis businesses to comply with the location criteria of the current version of the Pasadena Municipal Code,” the petition states. “Existing non-offending commercial cannabis businesses which operated without criminal conviction during calendar year 2018 should be allowed to continue to operate in their present locations, provided that they comply with the Cannabis Business Tax provisions of the Pasadena Municipal Code.”

Szameit told Pasadena Now Sunday that, along with local approval, a dispensary must also receive state approval, which requires detailed plans and procedures that are reviewed by the Department of Public Health among numerous other county agencies. A violation would subject a license to be revoked and “would very simply eliminate any illegal operators,” said Szameit.

Szameit added, “[The city’s ordinance] is an example of the overregulation and wasted taxpayer funds that Councilmember Gordo is imposing.”

According to the terms of voter-approved Measure CC, since Szameit’s Golden State Collective continued to operate in 2017 and 2018 while being unlicensed, it is not eligible to apply for a cannabis license.

Golden State Collective has reportedly been cited by the City for code violations 17 times in the last two years.

Szameit and his representatives have appeared before the City Council numerous times in the last year to ask the Council to reconsider the ordinance resulting from the Measure’s passage and allow Szameit to apply for a license.

Szaimet has taken issue with his company and others being labeled “illegal” by the City.

“To call us ‘illegal operators’ is … again a false claim,” he says. “One might ask how many times signatures must be collected for the will of the people to prevail. The initiative was filed to stay in line with the state’s intended goals … to decriminalize cannabis.”

“We are valid, knowledgeable, and compassionate stakeholders of this community and intend to stay,” Szaimet told Pasadena Now Sunday. “We will stand beyond this issue and support the residents of Pasadena enlisting an often unheard voice, the youth. In such an economy when the youth have such a formidable task in building a future with the ability to provide, this industry is a strong supporter in building our future decision makers.”

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