Two Pasadena Councilmembers Withdraw Requests to Review Marijuana Retail Store Permit

Published : Wednesday, October 30, 2019 | 4:50 AM

Victor Gordo and Tyron Hampton

[Updated] On Monday two Pasadena City Councilmembers withdrew their requests to review a permit issued by Pasadena which would allow a marijuana retailer to open an Old Pasadena storefront.

Victor Gordo and Tyron Hampton said they did not know that two other cannabis operators, SweetFlower and the Atrium Group, had filed appeals regarding Harvest of Pasadena’s permit.

The Councilmembers would let that appeal process run its course.

SweetFlower and Atrium have been attempting to convince City officials to rescind Harvest permit.

“On October 10, 2019, the Planning Commission considered significant issues related to Conditional Use Permit No. 6757 [Cannabis Retailer],” Gordo wrote. “The Planning Commission narrowly approved the permit on a divided 5-3 vote with one abstention. In my view, this matter presents significant questions and issues that must be reviewed. I am requesting this matter be agendized at the earliest possible City Council meeting for call up consideration.”

The letter was sent to City Manager Mark Jomsky, City Attorney Michele Bagneris, City Clerk Mark Jomsky, Mayor Terry Tornek.

According to current regulations contained in the city’s cannabis ordinance, only one cannabis operator can operate in each council district. Atrium and SweetFlower’s applications were deemed incomplete and each company was denied the opportunity to do business in trendy Old Pasadena.

The Atrium Group, Harvest of Pasadena, SweetFlower Pasadena, Integral Associates Dena, Tony Fong and MME Pasadena Retail were picked in June from among 122 applicants vying for permission to sell marijuana in the city.

Each applicant was forced to pay the city a $14,000 fee just for the opportunity to apply.

Several companies that were not chosen have also threatened to file lawsuits.

The Atrium Group was one, claiming it has suffered substantial economic damages, including loss of sales and business profits, injury to its business reputation and loss of business opportunity.

If the Harvest’s permit is rescinded it would add more chaos to an already murky situation.

Earlier this month Mermell announced proposed amendments to the city’s cannabis ordinance. The proposed amendments would allow up to three cannabis businesses in each Council District and changes the regulation requiring all cannabis businesses to be 1000 feet away from each other.

The City Manager said the proposal is the only way to allow all six cannabis operators to find storefronts in Pasadena. Previously, Planning Director David Reyes said the city map only allowed for four operators, due to the regulations of the ordinance.

“Under the present regulations, only four of the top candidates would be able to open for business instead of the up to six approved by voters,” Mermell wrote in the statement. “If the Planning Commission and the City Council decide to modify existing regulations, there is likely ample space in the city to accommodate all six of the retailers that scored highest in the City’s application process.”

“This is a fair and equitable solution to the lack of suitable space under present regulations while preserving all of the protections for neighborhoods and sensitive uses,” Mermell said.

The proposed amendments will go before the Planning Commission early next month. The Planning Commission will send recommendations to the City Council, which discuss the issue at a later date.

But the city’s ordinance may soon be moot when it comes to 18 operators forced to shut down because they sold cannabis in Pasadena without a license.

The People’s Initiative to Preserve the Existing Operation of Non-Offending Commercial Cannabis Businesses has made the March ballot. If the initiative passes cannabis businesses forced to close would be able to engage in commercial cannabis activity within the city of Pasadena without a commercial cannabis permit from the city of Pasadena until December 31, 2024,” according to the initiative.

“Non-offending commercial cannabis businesses operating without a permit pursuant to this subdivision shall not be deemed, ordered discontinued, modified, or removed as a public nuisance pursuant to the Pasadena Municipal Code based solely on their engagement in commercial cannabis activities permitted by this Chapter. Owners of non-offending commercial cannabis businesses operating without a permit pursuant to this subdivision may apply for a commercial cannabis permit from the city of Pasadena at any time. After December 31, 2024, all commercial cannabis businesses may operate only after such businesses apply for and receive a commercial cannabis permit pursuant to this Chapter.”

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