FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – On Wednesday, Fresno City Council voted to approve only one of five appealed cannabis licenses.
Last month, Fresno’s city manager awarded 21 dispensary licenses. Five of those licenses were appealed by the city council. Now, a dispensary that has had its license appealed is considering taking legal action against the city.
The Artist Tree was one of the dispensaries that had its license revoked. The business’ location at 1426 N. Van Ness Avenue in the Tower District was granted a license by the Fresno city manager about a month ago and was appealed recently by Councilmember Esmerelda Soria who represents that area of the Tower District.
At a special city council meeting Wednesday to decide the fate of the dispensary, the council simply didn’t make a motion to approve The Artist Tree’s license, even after the company has invested thousands.
“The application alone was around $60,000 between legal fees and the other consultants, security consultants, we’ve been paying rent and a deposit on the property,” said co-owner Lauren Fontein.
Fontein says she initially thought the fact that her license was appealed meant the city council would hold a vote after public comment and a presentation from she and her colleagues. Fontein says because no vote was held, the fact that her license was appealed means it has been revoked, something she says was very confusing about the process. Councilmember Soria questioned The Artist Tree extensively on their effort on increasing diversity in their business.
“Let’s just look at the face of cannabis right now,” Soria said. “You know, who is sitting here in front of us? And I think that it’s an issue that this body (city council) has to wrestle with.”
Fontein says, providing equal opportunity and enriching the communities where she opens a business is a top priority.
“If you look at our application which is online, you can see our very specific plans for how we promote inclusivity and diversity in our business operation, how we do it with our hiring.”
The Artist Tree even saw support during public comment from the Tower District Marketing Committee, a local nonprofit advocating for economic development of the Tower District.
“The Artist Tree on the Van Ness Village side is key because that is an area of the Tower District that tends to be the ‘stepchild,’” said Tyler Mackey, director of the Tower District Marketing Committee. “And we’d like to see some opportunities for economic development on that end as well.”
For Fontein and her colleagues, the legal fight over what they say is a convoluted process is now beginning.
“We believe that we deserve to have the opportunity to move forward,” Fontein said. “There is no viable ground that we can think of that we should be denied this or that appeal should be upheld.”
The Artist Tree does have a second location that will be opening up on Palm Avenue in North Fresno without any appeal.