In one corner are some of the most powerful pot shops in the South Bay. In the other corner is the city of San Jose and Mayor Sam Liccardo.
It’s looking very much like a heavyweight fight with millions of dollars on the line, with one marijuana dispensary taking aggressive punches at city hall.
Last month, NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit uncovered a major medical marijuana distributor apparently ignoring the city’s rules. At first the dispensary declined a request to explain its side of the story. But, after seeing the Investigative Unit’s hidden camera investigation, the marijuana business has decided to defend its position.
J. David Nick is the attorney for San Jose Organics on the city’s east side. He says the “city is responsible for the chaos that’s been created.”
Last month, hidden cameras uncovered four apparent violations of the city’s rules for medical marijuana businesses. That’s the heart of the legal debate between the city of San Jose and San Jose Organics.
The Investigative Unit’s cameras uncovered San Jose Organics apparently selling to customers under the age of 21, selling marijuana concentrates, operating without a permit and exceeding the approved hours of operation.
One employee did not realize hidden cameras were rolling when she was captured telling an NBC Bay Area intern that the shop might sell to individuals under the age of 21: “Obviously don’t come in and be like I’m 18 years old … For our purposes, so we don’t get in trouble, we say 21 and up because that’s the ordinance. ”
Another undercover camera captured a San Jose Organics security guard telling an underage NBC Bay Area intern that “some arrangements” could be made.
San Jose Organics’ attorney agreed that what the employee and the security guard were heard to say doesn’t look good for the dispensary. The Investigative Unit asked J. David Nick, How did the owners of San Jose Organics react to what the employee and the security guards said
“They weren’t happy, I’ll just put it to you that way,” he said. “They weren’t happy because it didn’t come out correct.”
The attorney for San Jose Organics says the dispensary is choosing to following state law and not the regulations of San Jose. “They invited these dispensaries here, they allowed them to operate, they allowed them to operate freely and with impunity, and they took their tax money, and they encouraged them to provide tax money to the coffers, then they changed the rules up on them.”
The city of San Jose points to a California Supreme Court case where judges decided unanimously that cities, like San Jose, can enforce their own laws. The written opinion included: State law has “no comprehensive scheme or system for authorizing, controlling or regulating the processing and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes.”
The ruling opened the door for local control.
“This is a dispensary obviously that doesn’t care what the rules are and never did,” Liccardo said.
After watching the hidden camera video, San Jose’s mayor said his city remains committed to permanently closing the doors on San Jose Organics.
“Eventually, we are going to have a court order to shut them down. If it takes a sheriff to do it, that’s what we’ll do,” Liccardo said.
“Until a judge rules that they have to close, the legality of what the city is doing is up in the air and my clients are entitled to their day in court,” Nick said.
And ultimately, that appears to be the ring where this heavyweight battle of rules, pot, power and money will likely be decided.
Both sides are expected to make arguments before a Santa Clara County judge later this month, and like a heavyweight fight, both are confident they will win.