Local

SLO County lawsuit could drive popular medical marijuana provider out of business

Megan’s Organic Market, a cannabis delivery business, is owned Megan Souza and Eric Powers seen here at their marijuana farm in Los Osos. Souza said Tuesday she supports the SLO cannabis guidelines for starting a business.
Megan’s Organic Market, a cannabis delivery business, is owned Megan Souza and Eric Powers seen here at their marijuana farm in Los Osos. Souza said Tuesday she supports the SLO cannabis guidelines for starting a business. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

A popular medical marijuana producer and delivery service based in Los Osos could be put out of business if a lawsuit filed by San Luis Obispo County is successful.

Dozens more cannabis farms could face a similar fate as the county implements its enforcement efforts. The lawsuit filed last week in San Luis Obispo Superior Court against a co-owner of Megan’s Organic Market is the sixth the county has filed this year to enforce a temporary cannabis ordinance that took effect last year and expires in August.

“If the county is successful in destroying this year’s crop, I don’t think we’ll be able to continue. It could end our business if they’re able to stop this year’s garden,” said Eric Powers, who is named in the lawsuit and co-owns the business with Megan Souza.

The county alleges that his marijuana farm on leased land is in violation of the county’s temporary cannabis ordinance because it is unregistered. The farm’s provisional registration was denied in April because of a 2012 complaint over an unpermitted living structure and equestrian facility on the land. The county is requesting that a judge rule the farm is “a public nuisance” and order the plants be torn out.

The county Board of Supervisors might extend the temporary ordinance and will likely approve a permanent ordinance as soon as October. While the county allows hundreds of marijuana farms that have been approved, the lawsuits paint a negative picture of growing operations in general.

“The number of cannabis cultivation sites within the county has caused significant impacts countywide, including impacts to already limited water resources and to the habitat of state and federally listed species,” the lawsuit says.

“Additional harmful effects have included an increase in criminal activity because of the high monetary value of the marijuana plants, noise pollution from generators, interference with farming practices, fire danger from grow light systems and marijuana oil extraction operations, excessive energy consumption, and strong offensive odors,” the lawsuit adds.

Powers said the lawsuit is a “bit of a stretch.”

“What is a nuisance with this crop? They’re saying this is energy intensive?” he said. “We’re using the same methods any other farmers would use.”

They opened Megan’s Organic Market in 2013 to provide organic medical marijuana to patients and employ eight people. They distribute medical marijuana to about 1,000 patients and have been legally operating under Proposition 215 — the California Compassionate Use Act, Powers said.

He registered his farm as required under the county ordinance and was given provisional approval in January subject to the resolution of an outstanding code enforcement case open on the land he rents, which is owned by Susan Veley, who is also named in the suit. Powers’ registration was denied in April.

They will attempt to work with the county toward a solution. “We’re definitely going to resist. I’m not going to pull out my own garden,” Powers said.

He hopes the business will be allowed to finish this year’s crop and then apply for a registration in a different location next year.

In addition to a restraining order to cease cultivation, the county is asking that both Powers and Veley be assessed a civil penalty for $2,500 for each violation, costs and expenses of the suit and attorney fees.

Monica Vaughan: 805-781-7930, @MonicaLVaughan

  Comments