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Two Local Dispensaries File Lawsuit Against City Over Amendments to Measure CC

Published on Monday, December 20, 2021 | 5:00 am
 

Two local cannabis operators have filed a lawsuit against the city over amendments to the city’s cannabis ordinance allowing more than one dispensary per council district.

In 2018, 63% of voters approved Measure CC, which allows a maximum of six dispensaries, one per district, and requires each shop to maintain a distance from other dispensaries as well as from churches, schools, libraries and parks.

But on Nov. 1 after several failed attempts, the City Council voted 5-3 to amend the ordinance and place more dispensaries in District 3, which is represented by John Kennedy.

The new regulations decrease the required distance between retailers from 1,000 feet to 450 feet.

Kennedy, along with Felicia Williams and Gene Masuda, opposed the amendments and said he believed the council was acting against the will of the voters, which is what the lawsuit also claims.

According to the lawsuit filed by lawyers representing Integral Associates and Harvest of Pasadena by approving the Zoning code amendment; the City’s unlimited and carte blanche grant to itself of the right to amend Measure CC is an unconstitutional usurpation of the people’s initiative power by the City; and (3) the express language of ballot Measure CC approved by the voters directly conflicts with the City’s grant of unlimited amending power to itself.

“The zoning code amendment is in flagrant disregard of the will and intent of the voters who passed Measure CC. Measure CC repealed the City’s ban on commercial cannabis activity. It also limited the number of commercial cannabis businesses to six retailers. Furthermore, Measure CC only allowed one dispensary per council district, and required a minimum of 1,000 feet between cannabis retailers. The zoning code amendment alters the substantive provisions of Measure CC, an initiative ordinance approved by the voters.”

But councilmembers supporting the ordinance claimed the opposite during the vote and stated they were doing the bidding of the voters, despite the overwhelming vote by local residents to allow only one dispensary per council district.

Measure CC also gave the City Council the authority to amend the ordinance without voter consent.

The city chose six dispensaries in 2019 with Integral, Atrium, Sweetflower, Medmen, Harvest, and Tony Fong selected to move forward in the process.

The city’s process has been fraught with lawsuits.

Atrium, MedMen and Sweetflower unsuccessfully attempted to sue the city after they were not allowed to advance in the approval process.

So far, only Integral and Tony Fong have opened.

According to a staff report, Harvest has plans to open in District 3.

“Allowing the Zoning Code Amendment to take effect and be implemented violates the specific expressed intent of Measure CC, defeats public policy and constitutes a grave injustice to the public,” according to the lawsuit.

But the city’s amendments may not result in more local revenue if recent forecasts come to pass.

Last week industry leaders in a letter to Gov. Newsom warned that the state’s cannabis industry was on the verge of collapse and needed immediate tax cuts and a rapid expansion of retail outlets.

According to two dozen executives, the heavily taxed and regulated industry is unable to compete with the continued illegal sale of marijuana which offers consumers far lower prices.

According to the letter, street sales of illegal marijuana are double or triple the legal business.

Those illegal sales are now buoyed by relaxed penalties in the name of racial justice.

African Americans and Latinos bore the brunt of law enforcement actions for cannabis activities for decades and now in many communities they are being aced out of the economic advantages from selling cannabis legally.

Pasadena currently has no local social equity program.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey secured the dismissal of 66,000 marijuana-related convictions in 2020.

The city prosecutor’s office authorized the district attorney to dismiss the cases for 250 Pasadena City Prosecutor cases being dismissed as part of the LA DA’s Clear My Record pilot program.

“The opportunity to create a robust legal market has been squandered as a result of excessive taxation,” the letter said. “Seventy-five percent of cannabis in California is consumed in the illicit market and is untested and unsafe.”

“We need you to understand that we have been pushed to a breaking point,” they told the governor.

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