CALIFORNIA CITY — The City Council denied the appeals by three marijuana delivery businesses for city permits in order to operate, upholding their earlier decisions that the businesses did not qualify.
The vote in all three cases, considered separately during Tuesday’s Council meeting, was 3-2, with Mayor Chuck McGuire and Councilmember Nick Lessenevitch voting to grant the appeal.
The decision left Cal City Natural Delivery, Grandma’s Stash and MACC Consulting without the required city permits to operate.
The companies were appealing the Council’s decision in April to revoke and not renew their permits that apparently had been awarded a year earlier.
The decision came at the behest of Mayor Pro Tem Donald Parris, who proposed capping the number of delivery businesses at the two existing and two preparing to open, because the companies in question had not met the timeline to be in operation.
Parris and others argued that if the businesses had not yet met their obligations under the permit to be in operation a year later, the city should not allow them to continue.
“That pretty well says the state of our cannabis industry,” he said at the time.
The decision in April was made along the same 3-2 split as Tuesday’s denials.
In arguing to reverse their decision to revoke its permit, Cal City Natural Delivery’s representative told the Council their progress had been delayed by the COVID-19 closures, when it could not schedule the necessary inspections of its location.
Parris noted that they had eleven months prior to the closures, and that other companies had been able to complete the work in that time.
Councilmember Ron Smith noted the location is within 1,000 feet of a church, which is in violation of the municipal code, so it would not pass anyway.
Owner Raj Milian said the location was a temporary one to get the business started, while a permanent location is readied.
Smith also noted the company failed to meet requirements to be in business for four months prior to renewing a permit and failed to request a renewal in time. Milian said he was not aware it was time for the renewal.
“I don’t know that we’ve heard anything to overturn the City Manager’s determination on this,” Smith said.
In the case of Grandma’s Stash, its permit appeared to be issued by City Manager Anna Linn in August, four months after the permits had been issued as a group. In April 2019, Grandma’s Stash had failed to make the top 10 applicants which were awarded permits, according to city staff.
Although the company had a letter signed by Linn stating they met the qualifications, that letter did not grant a permit, Linn said.
Additionally, the letter itself was issued in error. The company had ranked 14 in the original group of 10 permits, and the group was expanded to the next two on the list, which erroneously generated the letter to Grandma’s Stash. It still would have missed the cut, according to staff.
The company’s representatives said they made significant investments based on that letter and were not notified it was issued in error, and blamed the city for accepting payments and proceeding through the planning process without informing them that they did not have a permit.
Linn said the company was informed as soon as the error was discovered by staff, earlier this year.
The city has the right to revoke any permit or permit awarded in error, Parris said.
“My personal belief is I think the city messed up,” McGuire said. “In this case, we would be amiss for us to turn down business for this city, to turn down the potential of additional taxes for public safety.”
“I think we ought to make things right and allowing them to continue on would be making things right,” he said.
The case of MACC Consulting also involved a permit perceived to be awarded in error, this time because they were not in attendance on the day the Council awarded them.
A representative of the company recounted numerous attempts to get information on the process from city staff, in which they were left only with unanswered calls and emails. This included information on attending the Council hearing and the ensuing disqualification.
Therefore the company had proceeded, under the impression they had a permit, and had a site ready to open in January. It was at that time they learned of the disqualification.
Linn said the company was on the same email list as all the other applicants, who did receive notification.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Linn stressed that she never promised a permit, that the decision is with the Council.
“We are again watching a process that didn’t quite work the way it was intended,” Lessenevitch said. “On any other set of circumstances, the correction would be to allow these people to develop their business plan.”