Did one of Fresno’s 21 successful retail pot shops break the rules, courtesy of a simple email?
It certainly looks that way.
Fresno’s complicated cannabis process has a key provision in Article 9, Section 3318 of the city’s municipal code, stating the following:
“At the time of filing, no Applicant or Owner shall initiate, engage in, or continue any communication to or with any elected official or Planning Commissioner, and no elected official or Planning Commissioner shall initiate, engage in, or continue any communication to or with any Applicant or Owner, concerning or touching upon any matter which is the subject of this Article. The application shall be rejected if prohibited communications take place.”
This rule previously was utilized when social equity applicant George Boyadjian was disqualified for contacting a pair of Fresno City Council members earlier in 2021.
According to an email obtained by The Sun, Matt Garza, the former Major League Baseball pitcher and local owner of Authentic 559, contacted Mayor Jerry Dyer last September.
Authentic 559 initially did not make the cut to receive a license from the city for its location in west Fresno.
But an appeal hearing last October kicked out one of its competitors – The Artist Tree – which would have been located in the Tower District, opening the door for Authentic 559’s approval.
After Authentic 559 was awarded a license following The Artist Tree’s exit, Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria appealed the decision.
The council held the appeal hearing in February and ultimately confirmed the city’s decision to award a license to Authentic 559.
However, Garza emailed Dyer on Sep. 23, 2021, before the initial appeal hearings took place and before Authentic 559 had been awarded a license.
The email reads as follows:
“Thank you for your time mr. Mayor,
“I am submitting a letter to appeal to the city manager and to you. Thank you for your time.
“The letter of appeal is attached…”
Garza also sent the letter to then-city manager Tommy Esqueda.
Dyer’s office did not respond to a query from The Sun Wednesday regarding whether or not Garza violated city code with the email.
As it stands, only one licensed cannabis store has been awarded a conditional user permit to operate: a different location of The Artist Tree, located in northwest Fresno.