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Council Rejects Cannabis Club's Request to Keep Business License

Telling the Pacifica Planning Department that the club was a flower shop was deemed deceitful by the Council Monday evening.

The Pacifica City Council Monday night rejected an appeal by the owner of to reinstate his business license after it was revoked because, according to the city, he lied when acquiring it.

Wellness Solutions Group (WSG), the medical cannabis club, opened on Palmetto Avenue at the beginning of August using a business license for a flower shop and operated under the radar, reportedly drawing hundreds of patients and ten growers, until it was accidentally discovered by a posse of city officials.

During an outreach event on Aug. 19, Mayor Mary Ann Nihart, Pacifica Police Chief Jim Tasa, City Manager Stephen Rhodes and County Supervisor (and former Sheriff) Don Horsley walked into a former upholsterer's shop only to be hit by a wave of something, well, skunky.

Turns out, they'd stumbled upon Pacifica's underground pot club.

The following week, the city and police department issued a cease and desist order to the owner of the establishment, Ruben Salvatierra, and revoked his business license.

At Monday night's council meeting, Police Captain Dave Bertini said that after the city and his department consulted an attorney, they determined that the business license had been obtained fraudulently because Salvatierra had claimed he was opening a flower shop.

"Our belief is that they obtained the business license under a false pretense," Cpt. Bertini said.

It is a misdemeanor crime to falsify an application to the City of Pacifica, he said.

According to Cpt. Bertini, Heidi Mann, the landlord of the building where the shop was housed, called the police department on Aug. 30 stating that selling medical marijuana was contrary to her lease, that Salvatierra told her that he was opening a Chinese herbal retail store, that the locks on his unit had been changed without her permission and that a security gate had been installed in the unit without her permission. She was beginning the eviction process at that time.

Salvatierra said he put down flower shop because it was the most accurate option in the city's business application process.

"For a medical cannabis dispensary, there's no tax code for that, I went with a classification that would be similar," he said. "I wasn’t sure which business description to use."

Salvatierra asserted that because Pacifica did not have an ordinance against establishing a medical marijuana, he did not break the law in establishing one here, especially since he complied with all state laws in doing so.

But city staff said Monday that Pacifica has a "permissive" ordinance system, meaning that unless a kind of business is explicitly allowed in city law, it is not allowed.

Several Pacifica residents spoke during a public comment period of the meeting about the need for the city to take an official stance on medical marijuana in Pacifica. Share your opinion in the poll at the bottom of this story.

The council voted 3-0 to deny Salvatierra's appeal of the revocation of his business license. Councilmen Jim Vreeland and Pete DeJarnatt were absent from the meeting.

Police are also investigating whether to charge Salvatierra with a misdemeanor for falsifying information on the business license.

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Dogbert September 14, 2011 at 12:03 AM
Bray, I know cats who have better sense than you. Now as to that "hobby" thingy, can it be one that is not on Pacifica's list of approved hobbies? Or does it have to be a "permissive" hobby? I can't seem to get it straight...
Gabriela Segovia-McGahan September 14, 2011 at 05:43 AM
I guess one thing I would question is how hard the licensing process might be. It's difficult to get good answers from a lot of government agencies for this type of thing be it local or federal. That said, I'm wondering if the guy had asked for help. How big is the office where you get a license? ("For a medical cannabis dispensary, there's no tax code for that, I went with a classification that would be similar," he said. "I wasn’t sure which business description to use.")
ian butler September 14, 2011 at 03:29 PM
Gabriella, The licensing process is impossible. At this point, until the city actually drafts an ordinance, there is nothing that Ruben or any other dispensary can do that would allow them to legally open. The responsible thing for the city to do is proactively develop and pass an ordinance, but the citizens will need to let them know there is support for them to do so.
jim alex September 18, 2011 at 03:35 PM
So will you guys Bray and Butler support me if I take out a business license as a women's clothing store and operate a strip club? How bout If I apply for a business license for a bar and grill and make it a strip club with lap dances in the back? The rules apply to ever citizen and I doubt the hippies have a seperate rule book. Your rein of terror on the city is coming to a quick end!!!
Steve Sinai September 21, 2011 at 06:50 AM
I will support you, Jim.

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