Stephanie Smith is the self-proclaimed largest cannabis landlord in California and has become a major advocate for the industry.

By Joe Nelson | jnelson@scng.com and Scott Schwebke | sschwebke@scng.com | San Bernardino Sun
Published: February 22, 2019 at 7:41 pm | Updated: February 23, 2019 at 1:53 am

As California’s self-proclaimed “cannabis landlord” sat in a Los Angeles County jail Thursday night on a drug charge, her real estate attorney stood before San Bernardino city officials trying to expand her empire.

City Council members were unaware that 44-year-old Stephanie Smith’s had been arrested the day before as her attorney lobbied them to approve a business license to manufacture marijuana products at a former newspaper production plant.

The council denied a business license for Smith’s company, Washington LLC. Instead, it awarded licenses to 16 of 39 applicants hoping to set up commercial marijuana operations in the city. Washington LLC was rated at the bottom of the list of applicants.

Attorney Bill Eilenberg, who made the presentation, said he didn’t inform the council about the arrest and incarceration of Washington LLC’s CEO because it was “irrelevant.”

“It had nothing to do with marijuana. The arrest was over some expired medications from a prior medical practice that were still at the house. Not a thing to do with marijuana,” Eilenberg said Friday.

San Bernardino police raided Smith’s home in Pacific Palisades on Wednesday, discovering a large stash of large stash of oxycodone and Norco and $200,000 in cash. Police arrested her on suspicion of possessing a controlled substance for sale.

Smith pleaded not guilty during her arraignment Friday at Airport Superior Court near LAX and was released from custody. She had posted bond on $30,000 bail the day of her arrest, but the prosecutor filed a motion with the court blocking Smith’s release until she could show the bail money was not “feloniously obtained.”

Eilenberg said Smith was in the process of retaining counsel for her criminal defense on Friday, and that she will next appear in court on March 4 for a settlement conference.

Eilenberg said the opiate painkillers were leftover, expired medications from a medical clinic run by Smith and her husband, Craig Alan Bittner, about a decade ago. The attorney said Smith’s husband is a medical doctor who no longer practices. The $200,000 in cash was rent collected by Smith from her marijuana-cultivating tenants because they are cash-only businesses, he said.

Bittner was practicing as a plastic surgeon until October 2011, when he surrendered his medical license to resolve a Medical Board of California disciplinary matter stemming from a court conviction. According to medical board records, He pleaded no contest on April 4, 2011, in Los Angeles County Superior Court to felony aiding and abetting the practice of medicine by an unlicensed person.

Smith was a co-defendant in the case. Eilenberg said she pleaded to a lesser crime and was given a fine of $240, and that Bittner did the same and paid restitution.

San Bernardino police have been building a case against Smith and her activities involving illegal marijuana grows at buildings she owns in the city for more than 14 months.

During a Feb. 6 raid at one of Smith’s properties in the 400 block of N. H Street in San Bernardino, more than 2,600 pounds of marijuana was seized. A wealthy real estate developer, entrepreneur, and mother of five, Smith has had six of her buildings raided since December 2017.

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