South Tahoe council denies permit for 420 concert featuring Julian Marley | TahoeDailyTribune.com

South Tahoe council denies permit for 420 concert featuring Julian Marley

A South Lake Tahoe medical marijuana dispensary's planned 420 celebration featuring musician Julian Marley this Easter Sunday vanished in a permit dispute with the city on Tuesday. Organizer Cody Bass, after the meeting, said the show will go on, but likely in Reno. South Lake Tahoe officials twice denied a temporary activity permit for the show in the last two weeks. They cited parking and security concerns as well as the impacts for neighboring property owners, some of who did not support the event. City officials also said the venture would violate city ordinances for medical marijuana dispensaries. The dispensary's permit expired March 27 and was temporarily extended by City Manager Nancy Kerry while it is being reviewed for renewal. Entering its fourth year and growing, the 420 celebration and concert would have been held in the parking lot at Tahoe Wellness Cooperative, 3445 Lake Tahoe Blvd., the city's only authorized dispensary. It was advertised to include a "cannabis cup" for medical marijuana patient judges to sample up to 42 different strains of marijuana. Over the last two weeks, Bass and city officials have unsuccessfully gone back and forth over the permit terms that would need to be met. Last year's event triggered noise and loitering complaints, according to Chief of Police Brian Uhler. "Sgt. (Josh) Adler responded and reported there was music playing and that there was marijuana smoke wafting so much so across the highway that it could be smelled from cars when driving past," Uhler told the City Council. Bass appealed the permit denial but was unable to convince South Lake Tahoe City Council to overturn it. Council members unanimously upheld the decision and maintained that city planning staffers had done everything they could to help Bass get a permit at his proposed site or even find a different location for the show, such as Bijou Park. There also was confusion as to whether the marijuana dispensary or one of two event promotions companies linked to Bass was organizing the show. One of the promotion businesses was listed as the permit applicant and not licensed in South Lake Tahoe, said Hilary Roverud, the city's development services director. The first permit application did not reflect the nature of the event as it was being advertised or represented on promotional materials, Roverud said. It also did not address any parking, security or trash cleanup concerns, while a second application still did not adequately address those concerns, she said. "This is so far and above what a (medical marijuana) dispensary was intended to do and support. On that alone I have a problem," Mayor Hal Cole said about his decision to reject the appeal. With a major headline act, the celebration and concert was expected to draw anywhere from 1,000 to 2,500 people. Councilman Tom Davis said the event has simply outgrown its location. "It's just too big, too complex of an event and you don't have permission of the adjacent owners. That's huge to me," Davis said. Bass also recently applied for a special use permit to offer the concert for free without the cannabis cup at Lakeview Commons, the site of a summer music series on the South Shore of Lake Tahoe. He argued that would be a better site than Bijou Park, but city officials showed no appetite in expediting the untimely application for a permit that normally requires 90 days to review and approve. "We tried to move it to Lakeview Commons and make it a free show for the whole community, but the city wouldn't accommodate that either," Bass said. City officials countered that the show would not go on in South Lake Tahoe primarily because of poor planning on the part of its organizers.

Arrest, smell could shutter marijuana dispensary

The last of three medical marijuana dispensaries in South Lake Tahoe could be forced to close if it can’t tame the skunky smell of its offerings. On Wednesday, the city issued a notice to Tahoe Wellness Collective ordering the dispensary reign in its odor problems or face revocation of its operating permit. The city has continued to receive complaints about the smell of marijuana coming from the nearly 4-year-old collective, said City Manager Nancy Kerry, who said the odor is “out of control.” City officials plan to discuss the issue with Cody Bass, the operator of the collective, Kerry said. She expects Bass will comply with the city’s notice and a revocation won’t be necessary. Bass, too, said he plans to take steps to alleviate odor issues at the dispensary. “We’re definitely going to do what we have to do to fix the odor problem,” Bass said Thursday. The smell becomes an issue for a few days around several harvests each year, Bass said. Operating a dispensary in a shopping center and sharing walls with surrounding businesses creates some unique issues for a medical marijuana dispensary, Bass added. The collective has already made substantial investments in its heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system to help alleviate the problem. Bass has also pulled a permit with the city in October to rearrange rooms inside the collective to better contain the smell. He’s also offered to provide carbon air filters to nearby businesses, as well as regularly deliver flowers, to help ease the problem. Bass also faces a potential problem with the city regarding a marijuana-related arrest last month. He was arrested by the California Highway Patrol Oct. 7 following a traffic stop for speeding on Highway 20 in Colusa County northwest of Sacramento. During the stop an officer questioned Bass about the smell of marijuana coming from his vehicle and Bass turned over about an ounce-and-a-half of marijuana and a half gram of hashish to the highway patrol, according to a police report. Prosecutors have charged Bass with transportation or sale of marijuana, possession for sale of marijuana, possession of marijuana, possession of concentrated cannabis and driving on a suspended license. Wednesday’s letter to the collective from the city notes the arrest. Kerry said Bass needs to address the matter with the city. Bass, who is qualified as a patient under California’s medical marijuana laws, said the cannabis was for personal use and he considers the arrest illegal. He also said his driver’s license was valid at the time of the stop. Prosecutors initially filed charges related only to driving on a suspended license, but then amended the criminal complaint to include the marijuana charges when he attempted to have the marijuana and hashish returned, Bass said. If Bass is convicted of the marijuana charges, it could be grounds for the city to revoke Tahoe Wellness Collective’s operating permit. City code allows the city manager to immediately revoke a dispensary permit if an employee is convicted of a felony or convicted of a misdemeanor “substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a dispensary.”

Lake Tahoe’s Bass Camp and Reggae festivals will not return in 2017

The ever-popular Bass Camp and Reggae festivals, produced by PR Entertainment, are not returning to South Shore this year. Back in January Paul Reder, the production company's founder, originally planned to hold the events in late July but had yet to lock down a venue. Both Bass Camp and Reggae fests have taken place in parking lots for the past four years — the latest being Hard Rock Hotel and Casino — but Reder expressed a desire to move the events to a venue with grass. "We don't want to produce events in parking lots anymore — that's the main reason we're not doing it on South Shore this year," Reder explained. "Fans have made it clear they want them on grass, and we want that to happen." While Reder preferred to have the events on Tahoe's South Shore, he eventually coordinated with a site on the north side of the lake; however, due to the snow pack accumulated this year, the location became less than ideal. "We had to make a call regarding the level of snow they had this year. It's June and what generally is a wide open field is still under snow, and they just got another foot," Reder said. "The ground is so saturated with water it wouldn't be able to hold production, staging, sound and lights." According to a press release from PR Entertainment, even if all snow melted from now through the previously scheduled July festival date there would remain large pools of water that would prevent the ground from supporting the main stage. Because of the last-minute nature of unforeseen issues caused by the recent winter, the production company was unable to secure an alternative location for this year's festivals and acquire necessary permits and approvals. This does not mean, however, that Bass Camp and Reggae festivals will not return in the future. "We are working with the city of South Lake Tahoe right now on a new proposed festival site. We have site surveys happening this week with members of the city and their team, and are working diligently to get those areas permitted and approved to announce festivals for 2018," Reder said. He is waiting upon final permits, expected by the end of 2017, before releasing the name of the prospected site. Although the large-scale festivals are not happening this summer, Bass Camp and Reggae fests are continuing to produce shows year-round: Bass Camp hosts its fifth anniversary party with electronic artist NERO at Whitney Peak Hotel in Reno on Saturday, July 8, and live reggae is held at The Loft in Heavenly Village every Sunday evening at 9 p.m. Tickets for Bass Camp's fifth anniversary show range from $20-$30. Additional information is available online at http://www.basscampfest.com.

Smallmouth bass discovered in Lake Tahoe

RENO, Nev. – Researchers have confirmed the presence of smallmouth bass in Lake Tahoe and they’re saying it’s likely the most voracious invasive species within the waters. And to counter the spread of the bass as well as other invasive species, they’re proposing a new metric to measure water quality near the shore where the unwelcome fish thrive. “In our work to remove warm-water fish from Lake Tahoe, we’ve discovered smallmouth bass, a much more ferocious predator than other species known to have invaded the lake,” said Sudeep Chandra, a limnologist at the University of Nevada, Reno, in a statement released Monday. Scientists are especially concerned about this fish because it uses much more habitat than other warm-water fish. It can survive colder waters than other warm-water species and it uses rocky outcroppings, in abundance at Tahoe, for spawning. “The population could explode and put more stress on the native fish population,” Kevin Thomas, an environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Game, said. “We’ve had reports of smallmouth bass before, but now we’ve 100-percent confirmed its presence in Lake Tahoe.” The smallmouth bass, found in the nearshore zone not only consumes food needed by native fish, it would aggressively feed on natives such as redsides, dace, suckers, and chubs. In a report to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, Chandra and his collaborators already documented a 58 percent decline in native fishes from historical periods. Thus, this fish could significantly reduce native biodiversity and alter the ecological structure of Lake Tahoe. “Research from our colleagues from Miami University in Ohio, suggest that decreased ultraviolet radiation is one of the major factors in the changes that make it easier for invasive species to proliferate, including fish, plants and mollusks,” Chandra said. The study found that the non-native fishes’ lower tolerance to ultraviolet radiation may enable young fish to survive in the nearshore areas where clarity is degraded in comparison to the majority of the lake where UV transparency is high, making it undesirable for nonnative fish. To get an objective, quantifiable measure of clarity or turbidity, members of Chandra’s team from Miami University in Ohio used a UV radiometer to measure the intensity of the light in the nearshore zone at 28 locations. Eleven of those nearshore sites were identified as having a high potential for improvement, so Chandra and his team propose that TRPA and other agencies concentrate efforts there first with the goal of threshold attainment. “We need to develop ecologically relevant metrics to assess the nearshore fishery,” Chandra said. “One of those metrics should be ultraviolet radiation exposure, and a new TRPA threshold can be developed for it, the Ultraviolet Attainment Threshold, which would minimize susceptibility to aquatic invaders.” The UVAT would have a target value for water clarity based on surface UV exposure during peak spawning season, and experimentally derived UV exposure levels lethal to larval warmwater fish. UV measurements would be used rather than rely on the secchi dish, invented in 1865, as a means for obtaining objective, relevant data. The UV value can be easily measured and monitored with a profiling UV radiometer or modeled from water samples analyzed for transparency in the lab with a spectrophotometer, Chandra said. “We hope that our recommendations will assist in preserving nearshore native fish populations, increasing the cost effectiveness of eradication efforts of invasive warmwater species, and inform mitigation efforts to increase water clarity at compromised sites around Lake Tahoe,” Chandra reported in his presentation to agency officials. “Given the potentially high cost of a full scale warmwater fish invasion any expense to implement these largely preventative measures is money well spent.” The removal of warmwater invasive fish is being coordinated by the California Department of Fish and Game as part of the Lake Tahoe Aquatic Invasive Species Program and funded in part by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. As of Monday, the department has removed more than 5,000 invasive fish from the nearshore zone around the lake in an attempt to make room for native species. “Our goal is to remove as many warm-water fish as possible from specific areas,” Thomas said. “Work will continue this year through October and again next year from May to October, with plans for future removal, if funding allows.”

Tahoe Wellness Cooperative denied business permit renewal

The future of a South Shore medical marijuana dispensary and wellness center is uncertain due to an expired business permit and a landlord's decision to not give consent. Tahoe Wellness Cooperative, founded in 2009 by owner Cody Bass, was issued a letter Monday, Nov. 14, by the City of South Lake Tahoe, which said it has 30 days to close up shop at its location in Bijou Center. The major issue appears to be that the owner of the strip of storefronts, Patricia Olson, refused to give consent for the continued operation of the cooperative — a requirement for renewal of the dispensary's business permit. "Every two years a medical [marijuana] dispensary is required to obtain a renewal of their existing permit. As part of that process they are to submit a letter from the landlord and a non-refundable fee," explained city attorney Tom Watson. "The Tahoe Wellness Cooperative's permit expired Nov. 9 and we didn't receive an application for renewal until Nov. 11." The application did not include the $7,000 fee or the consent form from the landlord, according to Watson. Olson's attorney Bruce Grego, however, made it clear to Watson that his client would not be giving consent. "He told me, in no uncertain terms, would the landlord consent to allowing the dispensary to continue. The city is not in a position to tell a property owner that they have to have any sort of business in their building," Watson said. Olson could not be reached for comment, and Grego said he is not at liberty to speak about the case. With an expired permit, Watson said Tahoe Wellness Cooperative would have to start from square one with the business application process. Tahoe Wellness Center's lawyer Henry Wykowski said he believes that the letter issued by the city was done so "in error." "Cody submitted a completed application to the city," said Wykowski, including a copy of the lease agreement at Bijou Center. "I don't deny that there is a dispute with the landlord, and we are in the process of resolving that. The matter is in court right now." According to Wykowski, there are two matters in dispute. The first is over Bass's attempt to buy the property currently housing Tahoe Wellness Cooperative and the neighboring storefronts in Bijou Center. Bass and a group of investors were set to purchase the parcel and Olson's house as of March 2016. Wykowski could not provide details on this transaction or why the sale has still not gone through. He did mention that by withholding consent for the business permit renewal, the landlord was putting pressure on Bass to stop pursuing the purchase of the properties. "The other dispute is with the landlord, who claims that we are behind on some of the rent. We did get that matter cleared up to the court's satisfaction. The court stopped any eviction based on the showing that we made. The trial is set for some time in February." Ultimately, Wykowski said the issue of the business permit and consent from Olson comes down to "whether or not a landlord can withhold consent over someone who they are in dispute with." "We are confident that we will prevail. It is unfair for the city to not wait until we have the trial," noted Wykowski. "We have a valid lease and there is no determination that we have violated any terms." Wykowski said he will be in touch with the city soon to get the 30-day notice to shut down the business "cleared up."

South Lake Tahoe City Council aligns code on recreational marijuana with state law

Move over ficus, there's a new houseplant in town. South Lake Tahoe City Council took the necessary steps Tuesday to bring city codes on residential cultivation of marijuana up to compliance with state law. In short, anyone 21 years or older can grow up to six cannabis plants in their residence or a locked greenhouse, no permit necessary (though renters do need permission from the landlord). City Attorney Tom Watson presented amendments to the residential medical marijuana cultivation code, brought forth by Prop. 215, to reflect the changes voted in for recreational cultivation by Prop. 64 in November. After a discussion with council that clarified this would not — in any way — allow the commercial sale of recreational marijuana, council approved the changes unanimously. "Our current ordinance that exists today allows for 200 square feet of [medical] marijuana grow in a residential home in a residential neighborhood by permit only," explained Watson. "We are making the change to eliminate the permit requirement, eliminate the 200 square foot requirement, and allow any individual in a residential facility, residential home, to grow six plants consistent with Prop 64." Cody Bass, executive director of the medical marijuana dispensary Tahoe Wellness Cooperative, voiced concerns over the amendments to residential medical marijuana cultivation. "I do have concerns with the way that the ordinance is being amended to the fact that we are striking out medical and just leaving marijuana in place there. I think it should be understood that Prop 215 is still on the books as a valid law and there are a lot of unknowns right now on how these two laws will work together, if at all," expressed Bass. "[Medical marijuana patients] are allowed to have whatever their doctor says they can have — they can have over six plants." The amended city code — which lumps together residential medical and recreational marijuana cultivation — now states that permit holders for residential medical marijuana cultivation in South Lake Tahoe have a year to reduce their grow from 10 percent of the dwelling's square footage (capped at 200 square feet) down to six plants. Two of these permit holders — there are currently only three in the city — came forward at the council meeting to say they believe there should be permitting requirements for residential medical marijuana cultivation, especially because for many patients, six plants is not enough. "I think we need to make permits available for medical patients. These laws don't necessarily work for both. I'm a medical patient; I have a permit [to grow]. Six plants is not going to do it for me, personally," said Matt Buckingham, who has a doctor's prescription for up to 99 plants, though he said he currently has closer to 30. No actions were taken on the issue of regulating medical versus recreational cultivation, though Bass offered to help council going forward when it comes to developing policies. The discussion on whether or not the city will allow, limit or prohibit the commercial sale and cultivation of recreational marijuana come Jan. 1, 2018, will take place sometime in the near future, but no set date was mentioned at the council meeting. "We are waiting to understand the law better. Once we do that, we will be having discussions," said Mayor Austin Sass.

Marijuana ordinance could set statewide precedent, advocates say

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – A medical marijuana cultivation ordinance under development by a South Lake Tahoe committee could serve as a model for communities around the state if approved by the City Council, advocates said this week. The proposed cultivation ordinance could be presented to the council for approval as soon as an Oct. 5 goal, but likely won’t come before the body until its Oct. 19 meeting, said City Manager Tony O’Rourke following a meeting of the medical marijuana cultivation committee on Thursday. The City Council created the committee last month following concerns from medical marijuana advocates over requirements in a cultivation ordinance that gained initial approval from the council in July. The committee has developed provisions of a possible new ordinance during the past three weeks. On Thursday, the committee scheduled a fourth meeting from 3 to 5 p.m. on Sept. 29 at Lake Tahoe Airport to review draft language for the proposed ordinance. City Attorney Patrick Enright expected to have the draft written by Monday. The stated goal of the proposed ordinance is to protect private property from damage by improperly constructed cultivation operations, and is largely based on existing building and fire codes. The ordinance is not expected to include explicit wattage or space requirements, but is designed so operations of various sizes are appropriately constructed, Enright said Thursday. Discussion at this week’s meeting centered around a possible timeline for implementation and permitting fees. The ordinance is expected to include fees to pay for the permitting process surrounding the new regulations, O’Rourke said Thursday. Fees associated with South Lake Tahoe’s medical marijuana cultivation permits are expected to be about $500 for the first year and $200 in subsequent years to pay for inspections by city fire officials. The proposed ordinance is also likely to include a Jan. 1 deadline for existing medical marijuana growing operations to come into compliance. Committee members Cody Bass, the owner of Tahoe Wellness Collective, and Gino DiMatteo, the owner of City of Angels 2 Wellness Collective, said they were pleased with the committee’s progress following Thursday’s meeting. Explicit limits on size or wattage associated with medical marijuana grows approved by the other California jurisdictions are likely to be challenged in court, Bass said. But the committee’s focus on reconciling medical marijuana laws with existing building and fire codes is unique and will likely be replicated throughout the state if approved, Bass added.

Council denies permit appeal for South Lake Tahoe’s only medical marijuana dispensary

The South Lake Tahoe council chambers erupted in protest from Tahoe Wellness Cooperative patients on Tuesday when council unanimously voted against an appeal that would allow the South Shore's only medical marijuana dispensary to keep its doors open. On Dec. 13, South Lake Tahoe city council was tasked with determining whether or not to uphold city manager Nancy Kerry's decision to deem the paperwork for Tahoe Wellness Cooperative's business permit renewal as incomplete. Tahoe Wellness Cooperative, run by executive director Cody Bass, is in ongoing litigation regarding a purchase agreement with the landlord at Bijou Center, Patricia Olson, and was unable to secure her signature of consent on the city's form for permit renewal — a necessary requirement in the city code on medical marijuana dispensaries. Neither Olson nor her attorney Bruce Grego were in attendance at the hearing. City attorney Tom Watson, however, said he spoke with Grego who "in no uncertain terms" let him know that the landlord would not give consent. But, as Bass's lawyer Henry Wykowski argued over the course of the quasi-judicial hearing, the lease agreement between Olson and Bass — which does not end until Dec. 2017 — should serve as consent. The reason for this, said Wykowski, is because Olson is withholding consent in order to put pressure on Bass to cease litigation over the purchase of her property. Bass and a group of investors entered into a purchase agreement for the Bijou Center in March. For reasons that have not been made public, Olson no longer wants to sell, and Bass is suing for breach of contract. A trial date is set for February. A notice of default, however, has been issued for Olson's Bijou Center. The U.S. Bank now holds the note for the property, which is set to be auctioned off on Jan. 17. Despite her refusal this time around, Olson has given her written consent to Tahoe Wellness Cooperative twice over the last four years for the business permit renewal application. "This proves even more that they are withholding consent to gain leverage [in the ongoing litigation]," said Bass. Kerry reminded the council that they were not assessing whether medical marijuana should be allowed in the city, if it is beneficial to the patients that use it, or even if it is right for Olson to withhold consent — instead, they were determining whether or not, as dictated by the city code, the application for the business permit renewal was incomplete. "The city's position is that the lease cannot supplant the forms that are required for renewal of application. Those forms are required to be completed per the municipal code regarding marijuana regulations," said assistant city attorney Nira Doherty. "The city's code states that renewal application must be completed on forms provided by the city." "As I understand it here, our options are very narrow. We are only talking about compliance with the city marijuana ordinance," said councilmember Tom Davis. After nearly an hour and a half of proceedings — and with no public comment due to the restrictions of the forum type — council voted to uphold Kerry's decision, ultimately requiring the cooperative to shut its doors on Wednesday, Dec. 14. Council would not accept the consent of the lease as a substitute for Olson's signature on the city form. After the votes were cast, the crowd of Tahoe Wellness Cooperative patients expressed what they had not been allowed to say in the hearing. "I have had 1,000 seizures. I would die without this," Craig Brown shouted at the council after the conclusion of the hearing. "My husband Craig had brain surgery for epilepsy three years ago. Severe epilepsy where the seizures won't stop. He still has them unfortunately," said his wife and full-time caretaker Alyson. "But the other day I gave him a full dropper of CBD oil and his seizure stopped fully, and that is why we're here. It's life saving." But for the Craigs, the importance of the Tahoe Wellness Cooperative extends beyond the medicine. "They have haircuts; they have massages. I have a lot of anxiety due to what we're going through, so going to the Tahoe Wellness Cooperative and all the classes that they offer really helps when you're home and you're isolated. Just to have others to talk to about it." Though the vote was not in their favor, Wykowski says this is not over yet. "We will definitely file a mandate as to have this reviewed by the court. I would hope that the council would entertain a motion to allow the dispensary to remain open while the court is deciding whether the action that was taken today was appropriate," he told the Tribune after the hearing. Without this allowance, South Shore's only remaining medical marijuana dispensary must close up shop — at least temporarily. "This is a matter that has significant impact on the health of many people and should be very carefully considered. To ask a sick person to have to drive all the way to Sacramento or elsewhere to get medicine is just something that should not be taken lightly," said Wykowski. "We're exploring ways to make medicine available to our patients. We're in discussions with the city."

Medical marijuana committee begins ordinance discussion

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Building permits and annual fire safety inspections will likely be a part of a South Lake Tahoe medical marijuana cultivation ordinance following the first meeting of a committee drafted to look at the ordinance on Wednesday. The City Council formed the committee Aug. 19 after medical marijuana advocates protested restrictions in a previously proposed cultivation ordinance. The committee consists of representatives from city departments, the owners of three medical marijuana collectives in South Lake Tahoe, and Jan McCarthy, who represents landlords’ interests. Preventing damage to homes by unregulated, improperly constructed growing operations is the stated goal of the ordinance. Discussion at Wednesday’s meeting touched on many aspects of the medical marijuana debate, from what role a landlord plays in regulating growing operations to a recent California State Supreme Court decision that prevents limits on the amount of medical marijuana a qualified patient can legally possess. During the wide-ranging discussion, committee members agreed that annual fire safety inspections and building permits are likely good ideas to protect private property, especially rental properties, and keep growing operations safe. But whether a building permit will be required for all medical marijuana growing operations is undecided. Tahoe Wellness Collective Owner Cody Bass suggested the building permit requirement should only be triggered when a grow operation reaches a certain size, either 1,200 or 2,000 watts, because such operations are unlikely to create the problems the ordinance is trying to address. Building Official Dave Walker agreed that it’s likely unnecessary to require a building permit for growing operations utilizing a small, store-bought growing system, but the committee did not reach a definitive conclusion on the issue. And with the breadth of issues still to be discussed, including ventilation requirements and possible electrical limits, it’s unlikely the committee will be able to meet its deadline, Bass said. The committee is expected to report back to the City Council at their Oct. 5 meeting. While asking the City Council for additional time may be an option, City Manager Tony O’Rourke encouraged the group to focus on the existing deadline. He said the cultivation ordinance will likely use existing city ordinances as a framework, rather than starting from scratch. Copies of the relevant existing ordinances will be distributed to committee members prior to their next meeting, O’Rourke said. The committee is scheduled to meet starting at 3 p.m. on Sept. 15 and 23 at Lake Tahoe Airport.

Tahoe Wellness Co-op, city of South Lake Tahoe head to court over license

South Lake Tahoe's last remaining medical marijuana dispensary has been operating without a business license since an appeal was denied by City Council on Dec. 13 — and racking up $1,000 a day fines for doing so. Now, Tahoe Wellness Cooperative is fighting back in court against the city's decision. On Dec. 21, Tahoe Wellness Cooperative and its executive director Cody Bass filed an ex-parte application for stay in regards to the City Council's decision to deny renewal of the dispensary's operating permit. Similar to the appeal made to council on Dec. 13 in a quasi-judicial hearing, Bass' attorney James Anthony asked the court to allow the business to continue operating — and for the fines to stop — while a dispute with the co-op's landlord at Bijou Center, Patricia Olson, is resolved in court. The issue with Tahoe Wellness Cooperative's license began when Olson refused to give her signature of consent on a city form for the business permit renewal — something she has done twice in the past four years. Consequently, City Council unanimously decided that the permit application was incomplete, and would not accept the signed lease agreement — which does not end until Dec. 2017 — as consent. The council's decision was based on the language of the city code, which states consent must be given on the actual city form. The situation is further complicated by the fact that Olson entered into a purchase agreement with Bass for the entire Bijou Center in March, but for reasons that have not been publicized, refused to go through with the sale. Bass is now suing for breach of contract, and a Feb. 6 trial date will determine if Bass is the rightful owner of the shopping center. Judge Steven Bailey presided over the hearing on Dec. 21, and stated several times that he was troubled by Olson's actions and how they had ultimately dragged the city into the middle of this situation. "I think going in and closing the dispensary, whether you like it or not — and I don't want to suggest for one second that I'm a big supporter of marijuana, I think in many ways it's a harmful drug — but at the same time, I'm not prepared to see property owners play what appears to the court to be a game," stated Bailey. "When they entered into a lease that was five years at the minimum and maybe as long as 15 years at a maximum, and in the middle of that to suddenly come in and say, 'he doesn't have permission.' That is just unconscionable." "It is very difficult for the court to conclude that there isn't unclean hands on the right of the property owner, particularly when this matter is in the height of litigation over who is actually the rightful owner of the property," added Bailey. Ultimately Bailey decided to grant a stay, which halts the issuance of fines until the court determines whether or not the lease should be considered consent from the landlord in place of the signature on the city form. A Jan. 10 scheduling date was set to determine when the hearing for this would take place.