A group of property owners and marijuana-business operators filed suit against San Diego County on Friday, alleging that a March vote to prohibit new pot operations and phase out existing ones is unconstitutional.
Passed in March on a 3-2 vote of the Board of Supervisors, the prohibition amounts to an illegal taking of property — millions of dollars they spent prior to the ban to secure permits for their businesses, the lawsuit contends.
The plaintiffs are a group of nonprofit collectives and limited liability companies seeking to grow and distribute marijuana for medical purposes. The drug was also approved for recreational use by California voters last November.
The lawsuit accuses county officials of wrongly intervening in their approval processes, which included following advice and directions of the San Diego Sheriff’s Department.
“Unless petitioners are permitted to develop their properties pursuant to the original plans they submitted to the county and which were approved by the county’s Planning Development and Services (PDS), petitioners will lose thousands of dollars in investment and San Diego County will be denied access to lawful medical marijuana facilities,” the complaint states.
County spokesman Michael Workman said he could not comment on pending litigation.
The ban was approved after a contentious Board of Supervisors hearing March 15.
Several of the plaintiffs testified at the March hearing that in addition to damaging their business interests the ban would harm patients who rely on marijuana as medication.
Nonetheless, a majority of board members supported the prohibition. Supervisors Dianne Jacob, Bill Horn and Kristin Gaspar also imposed a five-year sunset on existing collectives, meaning that previously approved dispensaries and pot companies would no longer be permitted by 2022.