L.A. suburb engaging in kickback scheme for cannabis permits, suit says

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A lobbyist allegedly working with city officials in the Los Angeles suburb of Commerce has been soliciting kickbacks in exchange for help with obtaining marijuana business licenses, according to a new lawsuit filed by a cannabis company.

Law360 reported that From The Earth applied to Commerce for several cannabis business licenses but said its bid was rejected, according to the lawsuit, because of its refusal to work with a lobbyist.

The suit claims the lobbyist threatened to torpedo the company’s applications unless he received a $50,000 payment, a 10% stake in the business and ongoing $2,500 monthly payments.

Beltran and From The Earth’s attorneys did not respond to Law360’s requests for comment. And a spokesperson for Commerce told the legal news site that the city doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

From The Earth’s application was ultimately rejected because city officials determined the company’s location was too close to a school.

However, the lawsuit claims From The Earth’s location is 1,600 feet from the school in question while local regulations require marijuana businesses to be only 600 feet away.

According to the lawsuit, the lobbyist who threatened From The Earth somehow wound up on an email thread from the city to the company, but the business never identified the lobbyist as its representative to the city.

From The Earth is asking a Los Angeles judge to award the company $400,000 because the estimated amount it spent on the application process.