A court case last month may have set the stage for a new cannabis dispensary in Richmond, the resurrection of an old fight to keep it away – or both.
Two Richmond dispensary owners were ordered to pay $ 5 million in damages for conspiracy against a rival owner. On September 23, a Contra Costa County jury found that William Koziol and Darrin Parle, who run the Green Remedy Collective, had prevented a potential dispensary, Richmond Compassionate Care Collective, from establishing a business in Richmond. The jury awarded RCCC $ 5 million in damages.
The ruling ends a more than five-year legal battle that began before recreational cannabis use was legal in California. And that may have revived RCCC’s attempt to settle in Richmond, which many residents had opposed in the years leading up to the trial.
The owners of RCCC “are going to do everything they can to go back to city council and say they have been unfairly deprived of their license,” said Ron Foreman, who introduced RCCC in the case.
Lina Velasco, director of community development who manages cannabis licenses for the city, declined to comment on RCCC’s potential to receive a license.
RCCC filed a lawsuit in 2016, alleging that the owners of three dispensaries and several community leaders had conspired to prevent the opening of RCCC.
After a 28-day trial, the jury concluded that Koziol and Parle were preventing RCCC from operating in a viable location. The jury dropped the charges against a third operator of Green Remedy, Alexis Parle. Community leaders and other dispensary owners were dismissed from the case before the jury trial began.
Foreman said the jury’s decision could be tripled under federal antitrust laws. He said he believed the case was the country’s first antitrust case in the cannabis industry.
“It’s a warning to the industry that it will be ruled by competition,” Foreman said.
More than a decade ago, RCCC was among the first companies to be licensed as a medical cannabis dispensary in Richmond, but never opened due to a series of zoning and regulatory issues. repression of the community.
RCCC argued that whenever it found a new location for a store, rival dispensary owners and their allies would allegedly lease the properties or dissuade owners from renting to RCCC. The lawsuit claimed that RCCC’s rivals met at Café Pascal, Romano’s Macaroni Grill or private homes to identify potentially available properties in commercial zoning districts and “ways to block all C-compliant properties. 3 and C-2 until the expiry of the RCCC license “.
Under Richmond’s zoning rules, cannabis dispensaries are only permitted in certain commercial areas and cannot be within 1,000 feet of a school.
The plaintiffs argued that the rival group would use the City of Richmond’s website to find properties with compliant zoning, then visit the owners and “pose as potential buyers or tenants.” The lawsuit says the rivals worked to “ensure that no landlord and / or landlord would rent or sell any property to RCCC.”
In one case, RCCC alleges that the owners of Green Remedy purchased commercial property at 4800 Bissell Ave. and asked the city to move their license to that address, even though Green Remedy continued to operate only at its original address on Hilltop Mall Road.
Lawyers representing rival dispensary owners argued that while they were exploring other properties, they were unable to open stores in several of the potential locations due to proximity to a school or funding issues.
“The evidence was overwhelming that they had purchased the other properties purely for legitimate business purposes,” said Barry Himmelstein, an attorney representing Koziol.
Himmelstein and Parle’s attorney, Scot Candell, said they plan to appeal the jury’s decision.