Woman Allegedly at Helm of Pot 'Fortress' Sues City

She says San Bernardino's ordinance violates the Constitution
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 28, 2018 2:39 PM CDT
This Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, file photo provided by the San Bernardino Police Department shows a shut down marijuana operation of some 35,000 plants they believe was bringing in millions of dollars...   (San Bernardino Police Department via AP, File)
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(Newser) – A Los Angeles mom accused of running a multimillion-dollar marijuana grow operation in San Bernardino is now suing the city to overturn its pot regulation ordinance, the AP reports. Stephanie Smith, a 43-year-old real estate developer and mother of five, owns three buildings in San Bernardino that were raided by police in December. Thousands of marijuana plants were confiscated, CBS Los Angeles reported at the time. Smith was not arrested or charged, but police accused her of being in charge of the pot "fortress"; she said she was simply the landlord and that her tenants' activities were legal. In her lawsuit, she argues San Bernardino's ordinance "is a backdoor ban that continues the city's illogical campaign against a legal product," CBS reports. California legalized recreational marijuana last year, but sales did not begin until Jan. 1, CBS reported at the time.

Smith, who says she is the biggest landlord of marijuana businesses in the state, argues that under the San Bernardino ordinance—which was passed by the city council after Smith's buildings were raided—"any person who has ever had anything to do with cannabis is banned for life from entering the legal market," per the San Bernardino Sun. That's because Smith says her tenants were in the process of being licensed when they were raided, and got approval to operate a week after authorities shut them down, but the ordinance bars anyone who has violated local or state laws related to the cannabis industry from ever entering the commercial cannabis business in the city. "San Bernardino is ... guaranteeing that anyone in the city who operated prior to this law has to remain in the black market," her attorney says. Smith says that could result in monopolies forming in the cannabis industry, and could also prevent her from renting to those in the industry. (Read more marijuana stories.)

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