City Council Pot Shop Flip Flop

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Malibu City Hall

Previously, in March, the Malibu City Council voted 5-0 to open the possibility for a change to wording of the Malibu Municipal Code (MMC) in order to allow for sales of liquor and marijuana to coexist on the same lot. In May, the Malibu Planning Commission voted 5-0 to change wording in the MMC to allow for “adults … to kind of make their own choices,” according to Commissioner Mikke Pierson, and purchase marijuana next door to a liquor store. In June, City Council again voted to ratify the new wording of the ordinance, which made way for a possible new marijuana dispensary to be located on the same lot as a liquor store.

Then, in July, after a long and expensive process, Council totally flip flopped and voted unanimously 5-0 to deny the conditional use permit (CUP) application for Malibu Community Collective, a pot shop located next door to a liquor store, on the grounds that having a marijuana dispensary next to a liquor store is dangerous for the community, in opposition to the recommendation of city staff, leaving both the applicant and audience members shocked and confused.

“I can’t make a conscious decision that putting the weed store next to a liquor store is the right choice for our community at this point,” said Councilmember Skylar Peak during Monday night’s council meeting, citing concerns over impaired driving on Pacific Coast Highway.

This conflicts with what Peak said during a meeting in March, when he said, “In this situation, I think that we should change the way [the marijuana ordinance is] written or interpreted because I think that this is a great site for one of these.”

Mayor John Sibert, who also voted in favor of the new text amendment in June, said he was now uncomfortable with the location.

“The more I’ve thought about it, the less comfortable I am with approving this location,” Sibert told Council Monday, July 13.

This abrupt change in sentiment across the Council was not unnoticed, leaving applicant Stephen Braverman in shock about the decision Tuesday afternoon.

“Logic fails me [about] last night,” Braverman told The Malibu Times. “I still am baffled.”

The changes to the city’s marijuana ordinance were never explicitly enacted in order to allow for Braverman’s business to operate at its chosen location, next to Colony House Liquor on PCH in Eastern Malibu, but Braverman said he felt the zone text amendment was written in order “to overcome the fact that [he] was denied.”

“They all know very well when they passed the zone text amendment, it was to allow this dispensary to be located next to Colony House,” Braverman said. “So, to turn around after that, and because my competitor was able to parade a large number of people to speak against me, is that all it takes? I could have brought a lot of people with me, too.”

His competitor, according to Braverman, is Yvonne Green, the owner and operator of 99 High Tide Collective, a marijuana dispensary which opened in Malibu in April. Braverman felt confident the many people who came out to speak against Malibu Community Collective were there on behalf of Yvonne Green, who, in his words, is striving for a monopoly over marijuana sales in Malibu. Green vehimently denied the allegation.

“I don’t believe we had anything to do with the decision,” Green said.

“The facts speak for themselves. Mr. Braverman was denied because the residents of Malibu did not want a dispensary within a liquor store — this is a medicine,” Green said. “Also, Mr. Braverman submitted forged and fraudulent documents in his efforts to obtain the medical marijuana CUP.”

This allegation came to light during a conversation between Sibert and City Attorney Christi Hogin that occurred during Monday’s meeting.

During the public comment section of the agenda item, Tamer El-Shakhs from 99 High Tide Collective mentioned to Council the existence of “fraudulent activity on the applicant part,” in the form of an alleged forged document which Braverman’s attorney presented to city staff in March in an “attempt to deceive the Council.”

According to a letter sent to Council from Margolin & Lawrence, attorneys for Green, a document was provided to Council which seemed to prove 99 High Tide Collective was selling alcohol on its premises, thusly suggesting Malibu Community Collective should be permitted to do the same.

“Braverman/Erickson/Malibu Collective Caregivers attempted to deceive the City Council into believing there were supposed alcohol sales and that alcohol was being served on the property,” the letter read.

This accusation may have been what turned the tide for Braverman and the Malibu Community Collective.

“I have to admit, I don’t have an issue with putting it next to an alcohol store; I look at everyone as an adult,” said Councilmember Laura Rosenthal, who was teleconferencing in from Park City, Utah. “My concerns are more around the behavior of Mr. Braverman, and some of the things that have been brought up tonight.”

Sibert agreed.

“What really did it for me was the attempt to try and push through the idea [of selling liquor and marijuana on the same lot] before we had said it was OK to put it in the same place, with forged documents to try to convince us that alcohol was being served at the other location,” Sibert said. “That’s just wrong, and for that reason, I am totally opposed.”

At this, Hogin stepped in.

“The issues that are relevant in terms of your decision have nothing to do with who in particular is running the business,” Hogin reminded Sibert. “You’re looking at a conditional use permit to allow this use to be at this particular piece of property — not necessarily tied to the personality of the individual, for better or for worse.”

“What I care about is a forged document,” Sibert responded. “You’re telling me we can’t consider that?”

“I’m telling you, it is not relevant,” Hogin replied.

Councilmember Joan House then stated that she has never supported medical marijuana in Malibu, citing Federal law.

Council then voted 5-0 to deny Braverman’s CUP.

When Planning Director Bonnie Blue asked Peak for the reason for denial.

“I think it’s bad planning,” Peak said.