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Marijuana Retailer Files Federal Lawsuit Against City of Pasadena Over Cannabis Permitting Process

Lawsuit includes allegations of serious errors and misconduct by city officials

On Tuesday, The Atrium Group, LLC filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the City of Pasadena, City Manager Steven Mermell, Planning Director David Reyes, and other parties, alleging that serious errors and official misconduct took place during the recent ranking of 122 screening applications that were received by the City, which resulted in Harvest of Pasadena, LLC being named as one of six companies entitled to apply for a cannabis retail permit.

Atrium argues that their due process rights were also violated when Planning Director Reyes “hastily issued a new regulation denying any aggrieved party the right to appeal.” Atrium says they were left with no recourse other than to seek a remedy in a court of law.

In addition to an award of monetary damages, Atrium is also asking the court to order Pasadena to stop processing Harvest’s permit application and to disqualify the company from further consideration.

Atrium alleges that “the city manager and planning director failed to disqualify Harvest even after they knew its application was replete with material omissions and falsehoods” and goes on further to claim that “In allowing Harvest’s application to be scored, the City Manager and Planning Director failed in their duty to uphold a Pasadena ordinance that mandated the disqualification of any permit candidate who submits a false and misleading application or that doesn’t comply with the rules.”

Although Atrium was ultimately selected as one of the top six applicants, the group argues that its ability to open a cannabis store in Pasadena has been effectively blocked due to the illegitimate participation of Harvest in the permitting process.

Chris Berman, chief operating officer of Atrium, expressed his company’s frustration with City officials: “By allowing this one company to evade the rules, the City failed to protect the integrity of a process that Pasadena voters intended to be both competitive and fair— where the rules promised there would be no favorites and where every applicant was to be held accountable to the rules established by the City.” Berman went on to add: “Unfortunately, as a result of the clear bias that the City Manager and Planning Director have shown towards Harvest, Pasadena’s very first cannabis permitting program has been corrupted and cannot be saved until Harvest is judged by the very same rules that the City demanded 121 other applicants to meet.”

Speaking to another local publication a Pasadena spokesperson acknowledged the lawsuit but refused to comment further.

September 4, 2019

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