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Judge rules on Morro Bay dispensary fight, lawsuit filed against San Miguel grow 

One local cannabis lawsuit is wrapping up in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court while another is just getting started.

On March 22, a SLO County judge ruled in favor of Natural Healing Center (NHC), Perfect Union, and the city of Morro Bay in a 2019 lawsuit that alleged the city had illegally favored NHC and Perfect Union during its permitting of cannabis dispenaries.

While the petitioner, Connected Morro Bay Blvd. LLC, argued that the city "rigged" its competitive application process to ensure NHC and Perfect Union won the two permits, Judge Ginger Garrett concluded that the suit did not prove bias by the city.

The alleged bias centered on the city allowing NHC and Perfect Union to revise their applications "mid-stream" to change their dispensary locations. The two companies then received the permits.

Garrett ruled that the city's actions during the permit review—depicted as nefarious in the lawsuit—fell within their legal discretion.

Perfect Union has already opened its dispensary doors in Morro Bay, while NHC's website says its Morro Bay storefront is coming "soon."

As NHC prevails in Morro Bay, it faces new litigation in San Miguel. A local group, Protect Our County, filed a lawsuit on March 11 to overturn SLO County's recent approval of a NHC cannabis cultivation project on River Road.

The lawsuit alleges that SLO County violated the state's Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by failing to adequately analyze the project's groundwater, greenhouse gas, noise, odor, and light impacts.

click to enlarge IN COURT A local group, Protect Our County, is challenging SLO County's approval of a cannabis project near San Miguel (pictured). - PHOTO COURTESY OF SLO COUNTY
  • Photo Courtesy Of SLO County
  • IN COURT A local group, Protect Our County, is challenging SLO County's approval of a cannabis project near San Miguel (pictured).

The proposed 3-acre outdoor grow—with indoor cultivation, nurseries, and a non-storefront dispensary also on the 66-acre property—faced neighborhood opposition but moved forward with SLO County Board of Supervisors approval in February.

Paso Robles vineyard owner Stephanie Shakofsky, who appealed the project to county supervisors and is a member of Protect Our County, told New Times that SLO County is cutting corners on its environmental review of cannabis projects.

"The county is required to follow the law and they can't skirt it," Shakofsky said. "They are not taking the appropriate amount of time to actually analyze all of the environmental impacts."

Shakofsky, who has sued to challenge prior cannabis project approvals on similar grounds, said many rural residents are not anti-cannabis but are opposed to having it grown commercially next to them.

"In most of these commmunities, people there supported Proposition 64," she said. "But they didn't really realize that could potentially have a large industrial cannabis facility next door to them. ... They don't understand why the county will allow this."

An NHC representative did not return New Times' requests for comment before press time. Δ

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