The appeal of the pot dispensary is making great strides

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Two contestants who lost in a bid to obtain Grass Valley’s only cannabis retail dispensary license hope their legal briefs will allow them to open their businesses.

Sierra Flower Co. LLC; and NUG Inc., doing business as NUG Grass Valley, will attempt to convince retired Judge Albert Dover, the hearing officer, that the city – and its Cannabis Screening Committee – erred in granting Provisions LLC a chance to apply for a cannabis retail dispensary. as the top ranked candidate.

The companies and the city have now filed written arguments. The two appealing companies have until April 1 to respond to the city. The judge could then recommend a hearing. The city is expected to act on Dover’s recommendation within two months.



Seven candidates applied, but the only permit was offered to Provisions, pending it obtaining the necessary state and local business permits.

Ariana Van Alstine, an attorney representing Sierra Flower, argues in a brief that the city created a monopoly in favor of Provisions and in violation of public order.



Grass Valley had changed its order to grant only one retail dispensary license. Specifically, one permit for every 7,500 city residents and no more than two permits in total for dispensaries open to the public for retail sale.

“The city interpreted that they would only issue one license,” says Van Alstine.

Moreover, the city’s action favors a particular company and constitutes anti-competitive activity, the argument goes.

Around November 16, Alana Haley, CEO of Sierra Flower, was notified that Provisions had placed No. 1 and had won the permit. That was six days before the city notified applicants of the scoring results. Van Alstine argues that the only way Provisions could have known it would win the process before the applications were submitted or the results were announced would have been if the city had decided that the company would receive a permit in advance. .

“This single permit process was put in place for the benefit of Provisions and should be invalidated because it is anti-competitive,” she pleads.

City also neglected to accurately tally scores, according to Van Alstine. The tabulation of the total score was inaccurate. Sierra’s total average score was, as summarized by the city, 328.33, giving it third place behind Provisions at 340 and Grupo Flor at 330. But that was a mistake. Sierra’s average scores from the three reviewers were 330, 350, and 305. The latter score had actually totaled 315. Reviewer Jonathan Collier’s score sheet gave Sierra 20 points for experience. However, the tally of scores mistakenly contains only 10 points. The correct score according to the examiners’ score sheet numbers is 315. Therefore, Sierra’s average should have been 331.67, which puts him in second place.

THE RULES

Grass Valley NUG attorney Stephen Ramazzini argued his client was denied a fair hearing because the rules were changed mid-term. The city did this several times during the bid scoring period.

On April 27, the city said the top-ranked proposals would be invited for an interview and the committee would select potential candidates to apply for a permit. But a few pages later, Ramazzini argues, the rule was changed; the committee could invite the highest ranked candidates… for an interview with the committee.

Collier emailed city staff Nov. 18 in which, for the second time, he expressed disappointment with the process. According to Ramazzini, Collier said, “I didn’t feel comfortable participating unless we had a minimal two-phase process that included initial scoring and then an interview phase… Not having a process in two phases seems negligent to me.”

“And the likely reason that city staff denied Mr. Collier the opportunity to conduct the promised interviews is that the city wanted to favor a local candidate,” Ramazzini said. “NUG should have been given an interview. The city initially allowed it. However, as it became clear that the city had its local winner, the rules changed, and with them the in-person interview,” he said.

However, City Attorney Michael Colantuono argued that NUG failed to show how an interview would have overcome a bias even if there was one. The selection committee unanimously ranked the NUG proposal last. An interview was unlikely to overcome the deficits that the NUG faced, especially since the process only allowed interviews with the top-ranked candidates.

“The city reasonably determined that interviewing all seven candidates was an unnecessary administrative burden, particularly given one committee member’s opposition to the interviews,” Colantuono said. “No tiebreaker could save the seventh runner-up.”

Additionally, the city felt that Sierra could not guess the scores.

“Even if the court finds that a reviewer acted arbitrarily, the result would not change,” he wrote. “Layouts received the highest score from each reviewer and the highest average score from any pair of reviewers…” Colantuono said.

William Roller is a staff writer at The Union. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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