Judge David Cohn has denied a request for preliminary injunctions to be issued against several approved applicants

By Brian Whitehead | bwhitehead@scng.com | San Bernardino Sun
Published: March 29, 2019 at 5:29 pm | Updated: March 30, 2019 at 12:04 am

A San Bernardino County Superior Court judge denied a request to halt San Bernardino’s licensing of commercial cannabis businesses alleged to be out of compliance with city law or the general plan.

On Friday, March 29, Judge David Cohn allowed seven businesses named by jilted applicant Washington LLC in a suit against the city to continue seeking land use approvals and entitlements as part of a permitting process that does not yet have a clear timetable for completion.

Over the next couple of weeks, Washington LLC, headed by California’s self-proclaimed “cannabis landlord,” Stephanie Smith, will receive from the city and its cannabis consultant, HdL Companies, all documents concerning the application process.

A trial-setting conference is scheduled for Monday, June 17, at 8:30 a.m. in San Bernardino Superior Court.

“I understand why Judge Cohn ruled the way he did,” said attorney Ben Eilenberg, who is representing Washington LLC in the suit. “Judge Cohn is an excellent judge, and his goal is to make sure that the least harm is done until there is a full trial on the merits (of the case).

“I disagree with his analysis of the way we get to the least harm being done,” Eilenberg added, “but I understand it and respect it.”

As he argued earlier this month, when Cohn lifted temporary restraining orders previously imposed by another judge against the seven commercial cannabis businesses, Eilenberg contended Friday that last month, the city erred in allowing illegal operators to continue the application and permitting processes.

By doing so, Eilenberg has said, San Bernardino is causing irreparable harm to legal and shunned applicants.

In recent weeks, the city has said the City Council’s approval of 16 commercial cannabis businesses on Feb. 21 was by no means the end of the licensing process. That process is far from over, the city says, and could result in the denial of certain businesses for any number of reasons.

Should that occur, the city says, applicants who were rejected last month could step in and start the process.

Friday, Eilenberg argued that by allowing businesses deemed noncompliant during the application phases to get even this far, the city is delaying a lengthy operation even more.

“What (San Bernardino) is going to do,” Eilenberg said, “is give people already determined to be noncompliant the opportunity to stumble through the process for several months while preventing people compliant with law from becoming taxpaying businesses.”

Daniel Shimell, an attorney representing the city in the case, laid out what he said are the dangers of halting the permitting process in its infancy.
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