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City Council Stands By Cannabis Process

Investigation, review cleared city staff of wrongdoing

Published on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 | 5:39 am

The City conducted two probes into allegations of bias in the cannabis selection process, according to an email sent to Pasadena Now hours after Vice Mayor Tyron Hampton called on the City to reboot and restart the process.

According to a statement recently issued by the City Council drafted in a response to the investigations, the City spent more than $100,000 on the probes.

City officials initiated the first investigation in September in response to complaints made by a member of the public regarding City staff’s role in the commercial cannabis permit application process.

More than 100 applicants each spent $14,000 to apply for the chance to enter the city’s conditional use permit application process.

Harvest of Pasadena, Integral, Atrium, Sweetflower, Tony Fong and MME Pasadena Retail won the highly sought after opportunity to open in Pasadena.

According to the statement while City staff was not involved in ranking or evaluating applicants, the complainant alleged that “staff favored one or more of the six successful applicants after the completion of the ranking process.”

The complaints were investigated by an outside law firm retained by the City Attorney’s office to independently investigate the allegations. The law firm interviewed the complainant and members of City staff and reviewed thousands of documents. The law firm found no evidence to support any of the allegations.

According to the statement, the investigation will not be released to the public because it is a personnel matter.

A second independent review of the matter by another outside law firm was held after a member of the public continued to make allegations. The review “affirmed that there was no evidence of improper influence or evidence of malfeasance.”

Owners of Atrium and Sweetflower have filed separate lawsuits against the City after they were denied CUPs in their desired locations near Old Pasadena. The City ordinance only allows one dispensary per council district. Harvest was awarded the right to apply for a CUP in that area, District 3.

On Monday, Pasadena Now first reported that Vice Mayor Hampton was calling for a reboot in the process. Hampton claimed the process favored the wealthiest people and companies, the screening process was not conducted properly, and that the CUP process has favored certain applicants.

“The City takes all complaints very seriously and, where appropriate, reviews them with multiple layers of oversight, as was the case here, the email reads. “The City has spent in excess of $100,000 investigating and reviewing these complaints, made by one individual who has indicated that he was engaged as a consultant for one of the cannabis retailers. Additionally, the City has incurred hundreds of thousands in responding to requests by this consultant related to this matter, under the Public Records Ave.

“We will continue to move forward with our cannabis process as directed by the Voters.

The City Council has confidence in the ethical standards and professionalism of City staff throughout the cannabis permitting process as confirmed by two independent reviews.”.

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