Cannabis · Fresno

Will L.A. weed troubles spoil opportunity for Fresno cannabis hopeful?

A prospective Fresno cannabis dispensary up for appeal with the City Council next week could be facing legal troubles that prevent it from gaining a license under the city’s cannabis ordinance. 

The shop in question? Authentic 559, a dispensary with former Fresno State Diamond ‘Dog and Major League Baseball starting pitcher Matt Garza serving as its local representative holding a 51 percent stake.

The company has already faced early questions over the now-former CEO of its parent company, Shryne Group, Brian Mitchell.

Mitchell currently faces six counts of felony insurance fraud and two counts of workers’ co mpensation fraud and another count of conspiracy to commit a crime. He was charged by Alameda County prosecutors in September over his involvement with a Bay Area painting and construction company.

Shryne is best known for its exceedingly popular Stiiizy product line.

However, Authentic 559 faces other potential pitfalls, centering on a different co-owner, the company’s operations chief Tony Huang.

Huang holds a 19.5 percent share in the would-be dispensary and has a checkered past which could sink the pot shop’s application. 

Per Fresno municipal code, applicants who have “been noticed, charged, cited, or convicted of violating any law or ordinance relating to the operation of a commercial cannabis activity” will be denied. 

That raises a question regarding Huang’s activities in the last few years. 

In 2019, the City of Pasadena determined that Huang owned a property that was used as a dispensary

A filing with Pasadena’s Code Enforcement Commission notes that Huang signed a lease with a woman, named Amy Sahadi Diaz, who operated a cannabis dispensary dubbed “Undefeated 25.”

The dispensary was not licensed by state or local officials, the filing says.

While it is unmentioned if Huang was also an owner in Undefeated 25, the abatement petition filed by the City of Pasadena noted that “Huang has been and is currently strongly involved in the retail sales of cannabis at several other locations in Southern California.”

Pasadena officials issued eight citations against Huang’s tenant from January to April 2018 and again in 2019, totaling $8,358.

On Sept. 5, 2019, the Pasadena Code Enforcement Commission unanimously approved an abatement order against Huang and his tenant for public nuisance, citing violations of two of the city’s anti-cannabis laws.

Following approval from the commission, city officials sought a warrant from a Los Angeles County Judge and subsequently boarded up the property in Nov. 2019.

In February 2020, a new owner of the property petitioned Pasadena to rescind the abatement, owing to the sale of the property and the ouster of the dispensary.

As part of its application, the City of Fresno asked if any owners have been subject to any administrative action including, but not limited to, suspension, denial or revocation of a cannabis businesses license at any time during the past three years. 

Authentic 559 said in the application that none of its owners have been subject to any administrative actions. 

As Fresno’s municipal code states: “If it is later discovered that any false information was provided by the applicant, the applicant shall be denied, and if a commercial cannabis business permit was granted, it shall be revoked with no opportunity for an appeal.” 

If Fresno leaders determine that the abatement sought for the Huang-owned property is classified as an “administrative action,” Authentic 559 would likely be out of luck. 

Authentic 559’s appeal hearing – along with two others for High Speed Healing and Beyond Rooted 559 – is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 16 before the Fresno City Council.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story referred to Huang as the owner of the Pasadena-based dispensary. Huang was, in fact, the property owner. This story has been updated to reflect that relationship.

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.