The City Attorney’s Office this week sued a South Los Angeles commercial cannabis business for allegedly operating illegally and selling pot found to contain a dangerous pesticide.
The lawsuit marks the first time the City Attorney’s Office is seeking potential penalties of up to $20,000 per day of each violation at an illegal shop—penalties some City Council members have recently been advocating.
“Today I want to announce that we are opening up a new front in our efforts to effectively enforce the city’s rules regarding marijuana,” City Attorney Mike Feuer said. “This compliments our [criminal] efforts. In doing so, we have filed a civil action against multiple business operators, property owners and real estate defendants.”
Feuer announced the legal action during a news conference at City Hall East alongside City Councilman Curren Price, in whose district the alleged illegal shop is located, and Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who has been critical of Feuer’s office for not pursuing civil-penalty cases against any of the hundreds of illegal pot shops in the city.
The civil lawsuit names Kush Club 20, branding it an illegal commercial cannabis business at 5527 S. Central Ave. The lawsuit alleges the business operates without a proper license for cannabis sales, and that testing initiated by Feuer’s office found the presence of paclobutrazol, a plant growth regulator pesticide. The pesticide is banned on cannabis and not registered for use on other food crops in California, although it is used for golf turfmanagement to increase density and color in the grass, the suit states.
Among those named in the lawsuit are the property’s owner, 5527 S. Central LLC, and Michael Lerner, its CEO. It also names D/AQ Corporation, known as Daum Commercial Real Estate; Benjamin R. Spinner, an associate vice president at D/AQ Corp.; and James Vu, a vice president of D/AQ Corp., for allegedly leasing the property to Amy Sahadi Diaz. The transaction was designed to misrepresent the actual nature of the business on the lease, the lawsuit says.
Both Vu and Spinner said they were unaware of the lawsuit and its allegations. They also said they were unaware of any attempt to conceal the true nature of the business—which Feuer said was designed on the lease to show it would be a “church and other related uses.”
The lawsuit also seeks an injunction prohibiting further illegal commercial cannabis activity at the location, and immediate closure and eviction of the business operators from the location. The lawsuit is also seeking penalties up to $20,000 for each day the offense occurs, which Feuer said could reach up to $7.5 million, as well as costs and attorneys’ feesassociated with the investigation.
Feuer said the lawsuit is believed to be the first civil enforcement action in California alleging cannabis sold by an unpermitted location contains pesticide.