SAN BERNARDINO – The city can implement an ordinance regulating commercial cannabis businesses as scheduled after a San Bernardino County Superior Court judge denied an attempt to delay its application.
A temporary restraining order against the city was sought by Bubba Likes Tortillas, a cannabis company owned by Stephanie Smith, the Pacific Palisades woman whose marijuana growing operation was uprooted by San Bernardino police late last year.
Judge David Cohn denied the order on Wednesday, allowing the city to begin accepting cannabis-related business applications this month.
“The community was interested in wanting the city to proceed with an ordinance that was going to fairly regulate cannabis businesses in our city,” City Attorney Gary Saenz said by phone Wednesday. “And the council wanted to follow that desire. By drafting and implementing a cannabis regulatory system, we’ve done just that.”
Ben Eilenberg, Smith’s attorney, said in court Wednesday the ordinance passed unanimously in March violates due process by giving city leaders the authority to disqualify an applicant previously labeled as non-compliant with city law, even if the business or its owner have not been convicted of a crime or subject to an administrative hearing.
Certain business owners may therefore be discouraged from applying for a permit “because they know due process is not there,” Eilenberg said.
Under the new ordinance, the city can award as many as 17 licenses this first year; those denied a permit for various reasons can appeal the decision.
Cohn wants to see the application process play out before deciding whether the ordinance violates due process. He will have the opportunity to review any cases of discrimination ahead of a May 9 hearing on the matter.
“Obviously, we wish the judge would’ve been proactive in what will turn out to be a due process violation,” Eilenberg said. “But he is clearly keeping the door open. … There are clearly significant issues that need to be addressed.
“Ultimately, our hope is the city doesn’t take advantage of the system they set up through law to actually engage in due process violations.”
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