Monday, June 10, 2024

Ready for more litigation? And now we know the behind the scenes (aka actual) reason for the presentation, Amending Sect 30-60.32 relating to Medical Marijuana Regulations (Sponsored by Administration and Prepared by Community and Economic Development Director, Heidi Siegel, AICP)

Things have been far too quiet lately on the litigation front. The silence has been shattered by a new lawsuit filed against Palmetto Bay; filed June 10, 2024. The Plaintiff is Plants of Ruskin, LLC, a company incorporated as a Florida Limited Liability Company.  It appears to have been incorporated on August 31, 2017.  The principal address is listed as Apollo Beach, FL, 33572.  The mailing address is in Chicago IL 60610 – where the listed corporate officers also appear to reside.

So the council failed to resolve.  We now have another major lawsuit - Plants of Ruskin, LLC v. The Village of Palmetto Bay, CaseNo.:  2024-010503-CA-01, assigned to the Honorable Mavel Ruiz who will be called upon to resolve this matter. 

The Plaintiff is seeking the following:

As to Count I, Declaratory Judgment (beginning page 12 of 108), the Plaintiff is seeking the following:

... a declaratory judgment in its favor declaring that Sections 30-60.32(d) and (e)(1) of the Code are unlawful and invalid, and that they should be stricken because they violate Section 381.986(11)(b)1, Florida Statutes, by imposing specific limits the numbers of medical marijuana dispensaries that may locate within the Village, and award such other and further relief as the Court deems just and proper
.As to Count II, Injunctive Relief (beginning page 18 of 108), the Plaintiff is seeking the following:

An injunction from the court prohibiting the Village of Palmetto Bay from:

                (i).           denying the Plaintiffs Application based upon the ordinance;
                (ii).         requiring the Plaintiff to submit a “Distance Requirement Analysis” pursuant to Section 30-60.32(2) of the Village Code;
                (iii).        imposing any restrictions, duties, obligations or conditions precedent to approval of (the Plaintiff’s) Application that in any way relate to or stem from the Ordinances; and
                (iv).        awarding any other relief as (the) Court deems just and proper.

Does anyone have any information as to claims that individual council members have met with the applicant / plaintiff in private. Just once, can we please have some detailed disclosures on what occurs in these private meetings – to avoid disclosure is a serious breach of transparency in my opinion.  

State law states that the Village Council must comply with State Law if it is to allow the sale of medical marijuana – but state law allows banning the sale of medical marijuana within a municipality.

I am providing a link to the actual complaint. Note that it is a large download – 108 pages. 

I am also providing a link to the staff memorandum provided for the March 20, 2024, Committee of the Whole Meeting.  The memorandum is 52 pages.  The staff report reveals that:

At the December 18, 2023, Zoning Hearing, Village Staff presented application RZ-23-008, an ordinance amending Section 30-60.32 (Low-THC Cannabis and Medical Cannabis Dispensaries, Treatment Facilities and Independent Testing Laboratories) to be consistent with State law. The item was continued at the request of the Village Council to allow discussion at a Committee of the Whole workshop.

Staff appears to be calling out the village council for requesting that this matter be deferred – from December 18, 2023, to a COW Meeting held in March. Obviously, we see no action taken nearly six (6) months later – which appears to have led up to this lawsuit.

This is a far too common method of dispute resolution – inaction by staff and/or the mayor and village council resulting in a lawsuit. Once the lawsuit is filed, the current mayor and village council have a new entity to blame – the courts.

Please note that a transcript from the zoning hearing of Monday, December 18, 2023, is provided as an exhibit to the Complaint filed by Plants of Ruskin, LLC – yes that is right – this item was heard as part of a zoning hearing.  The transcript begins on page 22 of the complaint and ends on page 25. The transcript appears incomplete and I could not find any disclosures regarding any ex parte communication between any member of the village council with any interesting party. 

I will advise as to any information I receive. We shall see how this one plays out. This appears to be a defensible case. How will the village taxpayers make out in this new litigation?

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