California City lawsuit

California City Councilman Ron Smith (bottom left) tells the Council that he would abstain from any votes or decisions involved with cannabis during a regular meeting on Oct. 13 after the City, Ron Smith, Mayor Pro Tem Donald Parris (top left), Councilman Will Smith (top right) and local businessman Rick Jones were named in a lawsuit from cannabis company Grandma’s Stash, LLC.

CALIFORNIA CITY — A Kern County judge has ruled to dismiss a lawsuit filed against the City, three former councilmembers and one local businessman over denial of a permit renewal for a cannabis dispensary.

Judge David Lampe of the Kern County Superior Court ruled on Feb. 9 in favor of the City and others named in the complaint filed by cannabis company Grandma’s Stash, LLC.

After reviewing both sides of the case, Lampe found that there were grounds to grant the motion by the City to dismiss the case.

Grandma’s Stash filed the lawsuit against the City in September naming then-councilmembers Donald Parris, Ron Smith and William Smith. It also named Rick Jones, owner of Greenstone Cannabis Dispensary.

Ron Smith said he was fully expecting the lawsuit to be dropped and preferred that it wasn’t.

“I’m very thankful it was dropped, but I would have preferred that it would have gone to court, so that there would be an opportunity to not hear any evidence because there wasn’t any,” he said.

In the complaint by Grandma’s Stash, the company alleged that the City wrongfully denied its permit renewal after it was issued one in August 2019.

The cannabis company also alleged bribery and financial self-interest by the three councilmembers named in the lawsuit after they all voted to deny the permit renewal in a 3-2 vote.

“When I cast my vote, whether you like it or not, it does not give an excuse to make a blatant lie because you didn’t like the way that I voted,” Ron Smith said. “That is a very bad precedent to set for our community and it’s incredibly disappointing.”

Ron Smith said that he voted against Grandma’s Stash because former City Manager Robert Stockwell stated during a special meeting that the company didn’t make the cut to receive a permit and the letter they received authorizing them a cannabis permit didn’t come from the Council.

In his order, Lampe noted that on the part of the councilmembers, their ability to vote is a protected activity.

He also noted that the failure of Grandma’s Stash to exhaust all administrative remedies was also grounds for granting the dismissal.

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