“Illegal” Marijuana Dispensary Owner Says He Will Pursue Lawsuit Against City, Cannabis Ordinance

Golden State Collective owner claims City’s licensing regulations are ‘unconstitutional on numerous grounds’

Published : Saturday, December 22, 2018 | 6:27 AM

At left, Golden State Collective marijuana dispensary owner Shaun Szameit seen on Monday, December 17 before the Pasadena City Council. At lower right, Szameit stands (next to infant) with a group of his supporters outside Council Chambers after addressing the Council.

[Updated]  A Pasadena marijuana dispensary owner said he is pursuing a lawsuit against the City of Pasadena challenging the “legality” and “punitive language” of the City’s June marijuana ordinance, which won’t allow dispensaries who were doing business before the ordinance’s passage to apply for legal licenses.

Golden State Collective, which has operated on Mentor Avenue in Pasadena for a number of years allegedly in contravention of City codes, was previously identified by the City as an “illegal operator.” As such, Golden State is prohibited from applying for a cannabis retail license now the City has established new procedures for legal licensing.

The lawsuit, filed by Shaun Szameit, owner of the Collective, contends that Pasadena’s ordinance unconstitutionally singles out dispensaries like his. Szameit points to the City’s recent Airbnb and food vending ordinances, which have not penalized violators prior to the regulation of those local businesses.

It names the City of Pasadena, its seven Councilmembers and Mayor Terry Tornek as co-defendants and asks for an injunction against the City, halting the City from enforcing the new ordinance.

Read the lawsuit here

The suit was filed on August 31, 2018. Szameit said it was served on City officials Thursday, however City Clerk Mark Jomsky and at least one Councilmember said Friday they were unaware of the suit.  City  Public Information Officer Lisa Derderian said early Saturday that the City Attorney also had not received the suit.

The City’s marijuana ordinance passed as Measure CC on the June 5 ballot. It stipulates that only six dispensaries will be granted retail licenses to operate starting next year. The license application period is from January 1 to January 31.

All unlicensed operators in the City must close by January 6, the ordinance requires.

Szamiet’s dispensary, which described itself in the lawsuit as a “California Mutual Benefit Corporation,” was raided by about 14 Pasadena Police officers who arrived in two armored vehicles December 12.

One Golden State Collective employee was seen handcuffed in a chair on the sidewalk outside the dispensary as officers seized cash and inventory. Three employees were arrested.

The lawsuit also contends that the ordinance is “unconstitutional on numerous grounds, including establishing artificial location requirements for the operation of commercial cannabis operations,…with the express intent of precluding plaintiffs from being able to operate their business.”

The lawsuit added, “A government may not, under the guise of the police power, arbitrarily with private business, or impose unusual and unnecessary restrictions on lawful occupations.” It also claims that the ordinance is vague as to what constitutes being an “illegal operator.”

“I’ve had a really strong dialogue with the city,” said Szameit, who has appeared before the City Council to plead his position numerous times in the last year. “I actually incorporated in 2012. It’s not like I’m one of these new operations, the Chamber of Commerce is my neighbor.”

Szameit also said he has never sold recreational marijuana, has only prescribed medical cannabis, and was planning to close its doors in January before the raid occurred in hopes of applying for one of the six retail licenses.

After the police operations at Szameit’s business earlier this month, Mayor Terry Tornek said Pasadena has “had a number of illegal dispensaries operating for some time.”

According to Tornek, the current dispensaries are “flouting the law” and “have not gone through the process.”

“It’s taken us a long time [to shut down illegal dispensaries] because it’s very complicated and they’ve got money to spend on legal defenses. It’s taken a long time to be successful in shutting them down, and we are determined to shut them down, and then go through the legal process of licensing those that meet the strict criteria that we established,” Tornek said.

In response to questions about Golden State Collective, City Manager Steve Mermell issued the following statement:

“The voters of Pasadena have made it clear that they wish to allow cannabis operations within the City, but with reasonable regulations such as distance separation from residential areas, schools and places of worship.  In January, the City will begin taking applications from those seeking to operate within the parameters established by the voter-approved ballot measure.  Mr. Szameit has had every opportunity to comply with the City’s regulations; however, he has instead chosen to violate the law to make profit and is now demanding that he be rewarded for this with a permit to continue his illegal operations.  That simply is not right.”






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