Companies who have filed suit want a light shined on the city’s four-phase selection process
By Brian Whitehead | firstname.lastname@example.org | San Bernardino Sun
Published: March 1, 2019 at 2:57 pm | Updated: March 1, 2019 at 3:26 pm
Another denied applicant has sued San Bernardino over the city’s embattled commercial cannabis licensing process, calling greater attention to alleged illegal acts by those in charge of the whole operation.
Connected Cannabis Co. filed suit Friday, March 1, making it the second to challenge the city after leaders approved 16 commercial cannabis businesses last month. Washington LLC, another jilted applicant, filed suit earlier in the week.
Both companies want a light shined on the city’s four-phase selection process.
As with the suit brought against San Bernardino on Monday, Feb. 25, by Washington LLC, the heart of Connected Cannabis’ argument is that several applicants were in violation of city policy out of the gate.
To submit a commercial cannabis license application, businesses had to obtain from the Community Development Department approved zoning verification letters, which say, in short, the proposed business is at least 600 feet away from schools, parks, youth centers and other sensitive uses of land.
And yet, despite being denied such letters for their proximity to those facilities, certain applicants – and eventual licensees – continued through the process, Connected argues. Additionally, an eventual licensee submitted its application two days late and moved on.
“As a result,” the suit says, “applicants immediately began to question the credibility of the City’s selection process amid growing rumors and allegations of corruption, cronyism, political maneuvering, and the use of the process to score political points and to carry out political vendettas in and through the selection process.”
The City Attorney’s Office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Phases two and three of the application process called for the objective scoring of applicants by city cannabis consultant HdL Companies and a committee of senior city staff.
Denied applicants such as Connected have called the overall scores into question, particularly those for a category called “local enterprise,” which purported to favor applicants who live in the city or county. According to Connected, whose owner resides in Long Beach, many applicants who call the area home received low local enterprise scores.
Prospective businesses were to be ranked using a combination of phase two and three scores, Connected says in its suit, but a week before last month’s decisive council meeting, the city “secretly, illegally and in a total underhanded fashion” altered the application procedure, removing from the original guidelines a number of requirements without council consent.
HdL Companies did not publicly explain its scoring the night city leaders approved the businesses, which left council members trying to decipher the scoring system “on the fly,” Councilman Henry Nickel said this week.
“We rely on the professionals, and pay those professionals good money to do a good job for us,” Nickel said. “But when they create a situation like the one we’re facing now, there’s a culpability on the part of these consultants. The fact they weren’t there to explain the scoring system left us in a lurch.”
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