Behind the green curtain: Cannabis committee decisions under appeal – The Union


Now that the work of Grass Valley’s Commercial Cannabis Selection Committee is largely completed, there’s doubt whether the entity will continue its existence.

The committee, established July 13, determined which applicants received commercial cannabis permits to operate a cannabis business in the city. The committee was comprised of three people — Jonathan Collier, Marty Lombardi and Lisa Swarthout. It initially included a fourth, Amy Wolfson, who later asked to be removed from consideration.

City Manager Tim Kiser recommended their appointment, and the Grass Valley City Council approved, City Attorney Michale Coulantuono said.

“I can’t comment further, given that administrative appeals are pending and litigation is possible,” he said.

One of those appealing the committee’s decision is Max Del Real, director of government relations for NUG Inc., which on Nov. 22 was denied a permit to open a retail storefront cannabis dispensary. Del Real said he’s going forward with the appeal.

“I’m pushing this really hard,” he said. “I’m looking for a win/win solution — permit two retail cannabis (locations).”

Grass Valley is allowing only one dispensary.

The other applicant with an appeal is Sierra Flower, run by Alana Haley. Her business negotiated a lease agreement to occupy a part of the former Foothills Event Center last summer with an eye on opening a retail store front dispensary. Although turned down for a dispensary, Sierra Flower did obtain a distribution permit.


Although the city’s cannabis panel was called a committee, it was not truly a committee, Colantuono said.

”It never met,” he said. “The three reviewers did their work independently, and city staff tallied their scores.”

NUG and Sierra Flower’s appeals are similar to those made when someone appeals a Planning Commission decision to the City Council, Colantuono said.

“Yes, there’’s the two appeals by Sierra Flower and NUG, but the 15-day limit for appeals has run, so we don’t expect more from the decision to select Provisions as the qualified application for the one dispensary license.”

Retired Nevada County Superior Court Judge Albert Dover will hear the appeals and recommend a decision to the City Council. The council can adopt Dover’s recommendation, amend it, or send the appeals back to Dover for more work, Colantuono said.

“The council adopted rules to govern the appeals,” he added. “When the council makes a final decision, if the appellants remain unhappy, they can sue the city.”

Litigation over the award of limited cannabis dispensaries is common, said Colantuono.

“So, the city is trying to proceed carefully and trying to respect the rights of everyone.”

Colantuono said the group wasn’t subject to the Brown Act, the state law that requires certain governmental bodies to do their work openly.

“Because they are not really a ‘committee’ in the sense that they did not have meetings or dialogue,” he said. “They were three independent reviewers.”

William Roller is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at

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