As you may recall, Los Angeles hosted California’s first ever marijuana farmers market over the Fourth of July weekend. Thousands of people lined up around the block to purchase medical cannabis in smokable, edible and topical forms. Thousands of dollars were made that day and everyone generally agreed that it was a huge success, except for LA’s city attorney, appropriately named Mike Feuer.
The city attorney requested, and was granted, an injunction from a city judge against the California Heritage Farmers Market. There is a hearing scheduled for August 6, 2014, to determine whether legal action should be taken against its organizers, the West Coast Collective.
Feuer contends that the California Heritage Farmers Market was illegal; claiming that it violated Proposition D, passed by voters last year. Under the ordinance, the medical marijuana business was essentially banned in the city, with exceptions being allowed for dispensaries operating before 2007 (a total of 137 dispensaries).
West Coast Collective claims to have been grandfathered in and since the event was hosted and organized by them, the event was within its prevue of the law. However, by allowing direct sales between growers and customers, they have placed themselves in an uncomfortable legal gray area.
According to LA Weekly, Feuer said, “We’re fighting to stop this end-run around the will of the voters who enacted Proposition D. We allege these events also violate City land use law and are causing a public nuisance. We will do everything we can to put a halt to them.”
Prosecutors also claim that the farmers market created a public nuisance, diminished the quality of life in the community, created unfair competition and unjustly enriched those that organized it. Interestingly enough, Paizely Bradbury, purported organizer and executive director of the California Heritage Farmers Market, has distanced herself from the event. “I can’t really make a comment,” she told LA Weekly. “I’m no longer working with the California Heritage Market. I was just hired to open and that’s it.”
This legal case raises a lot of red flags and leaves a lot or people with more questions than answers. Why is Bradbury distancing herself from the market? Is there some possible criminal malfeasance she is aware of? Why, when it has been known for weeks, if not months, did the LA city attorney decide to seek an injunction after the event had occurred? In the coming weeks we hope to know the answers to these questions.
It is difficult to predict with certainty the outcome of this brewing legal battle. Some of the claims made by the prosecution sound like complete nonsense. Creating a public nuisance is a poor argument and even though thousands attended over the weekend, it can be argued that it generated no more traffic than a sporting event or music festival.
Furthermore, claims about zoning violations and diminishing the quality of life in the community is specious at best; one need only take a cursory look on Google Street View to see the kind of area where the event took place. One can reasonably argue, if anything, the event brought more life to the region than it diminished, and there is nary a school in sight.
That being said, the West Coast Collective may be in trouble for the entire premise of the cannabis farmers market itself. The law does not expressly permit direct sale from grower to customer. By helping facilitate such an exchange, they have opened themselves up to legal scrutiny.
As it has been previously mentioned, California is going backwards on cannabis. By prosecuting successful enterprises like the California Heritage Farmers Market, it is clear that California is no longer as cannabis friendly as it once was. The herbal entrepreneur would do well to look for other cannabis investment opportunities where the market is growing, not shrinking.