City of Santa Barbara Responds to Cannabis Licensing Magazine Article, PIO Anthony Wagner | Local News
The city of Santa Barbara on Thursday released a statement and fact sheet challenging what it called “seriously misleading and false claims” published in a Los Angeles Magazine article.
“Despite the known errors and inaccuracies in the article, the city has taken and will take all appropriate measures in response to the factual allegations of corruption,” said city administrator Paul Casey. “We take these allegations seriously and will ensure that every issue raised is addressed.”
Anthony Wagner, chief information officer and spokesperson for the Santa Barbara Police Department, has been placed on temporary paid leave following the article published Friday.
Wagner was at the center of a story that shed light on the Santa Barbara cannabis dispensary licensing process. The city decided to license three retail cannabis dispensaries, and Wagner was involved in the selection process, as Noozhawk previously reported.
Police chief Bernard Melekian quickly put Wagner on leave. He released this statement on Thursday:
“We are about to retain a firm to conduct the investigation that I launched on Monday March 15, when I put Anthony Wagner on administrative leave,” Melekian said. âMr. Wagner has been extremely cooperative and looks forward to the opportunity to clear his name.
“Nonetheless, the article raised potentially new information regarding Mr. Wagner’s relationship with two people in San Diego who allegedly had ties to the Golden State Greens.”
One of the statements in the original article claimed that Micah Anderson, a former Wagner business associate in San Diego, owned Golden State Greens, an entity that obtained a cannabis dispensary license in Santa Barbara. Golden State Greens never opened. Instead, he sold the license to Canadian cannabis retailer Jushi for several million dollars.
Los Angeles magazine, however, released a correction to the story on Thursday, stating that Anderson was not involved in the Golden State Greens’ nomination process.
“An earlier version of this story mistakenly identified Micah Anderson as one of the owners who applied for a cannabis dispensary license for Golden State Greens in Santa Barbara,” the correction says. “Information provided to us since the publication of the article shows that Mr. Anderson was neither the owner of Golden State Greens nor involved in the Santa Barbara candidacy process. We apologize for any confusion.”
The correction came after Wagner sent a seven-page request for a withdrawal letter alleging 32 errors in the story. It is not known whether the correction was in response to Wagner’s letter.
The City of Santa Barbara statement on Thursday also said the Wagner investigation would be completed in six to eight weeks.
“The results of this investigation will be made public to the extent possible,” the statement said.
The city’s statement also attempts to describe the city’s licensing process.
One issue that remains is why the city has allowed Golden State Greens to sell the app on the private market. The city’s Commercial Cannabis Ordinance prohibits license transfers and tightly regulates inventory reorganization or other changes in ownership, with a few exceptions.
“No licensee shall transfer ownership or control of a commercial cannabis business unless and until the proposed new owner submits all required application documents and pays all applicable fees, and responds to independently to the requirements of this chapter such that he is entitled to the issuance of an original license for the commercial exploitation of cannabis issued by the city council â, states the ordinance.
The language of the settlement, according to the city’s statement, requires the city to assess any proposed change in ownership against the same exacting standards as the original applicant. The purpose of regulation is to prevent a “bait and a trade” where an unqualified assignee sneaks into the Santa Barbara market after a fair competitive process.
A team of city staff and an outside consultant reviewed the business credentials of the new owner, Jushi, who was previously reported in August by Noozhawk as “Florida Cannabis Company Launches to Launch Third Retail Dispensary of Santa Barbara “.
The retail store, located at 3516 State St. across from Loreto Plaza, is slated to open in late September as Beyond / Hello.
The city quietly approved the transfer of ownership in May, after hiring Westlake Village’s Avenu Insights & Analytics to perform a financial analysis of Jushi at a cost of $ 2,400. Deputy city attorney Tava Ostrenger and Casey’s senior assistant Matt Fore have approved the financial review, Fore told Noozhawk.
According to the review, as of September 30, 2019, Jushi had $ 27 million in cash and cash equivalents in the bank.
âSanta Barbara is a perfect example of what we are looking for when it comes to acquisitions in the California market,â Michael Perlman, executive vice president of investor relations and treasury for Jushi at the time, told Noozhawk.
In its statement, the city said it also obtained and reviewed criminal background checks from each proposed law-abiding assignee.
The city also took legal action with SGSB, which lost in the 2017 process when the city granted three licenses. The city spent $ 101,425 in legal fees and ultimately won the lawsuit.