All SLO pot shop permits awarded to political donors

March 29, 2019

Heidi Harmon and Helios Dayspring


The city of San Luis Obispo has selected the three dispensaries that will receive permits to operate marijuana shops in SLO, all three of which are major donors to the mayor and a pair of councilwomen. [Cal Coast Times]

San Luis Obispo officials posted a notice on the city website Thursday saying the city issued contingent operator permits to Megan’s Organic Market, Natural Healing Center and Elemental Wellness. The permit for Elemental Wellness is contingent upon the dispensary selecting a site for its store within 60 days.

Natural Healing Center is owned by local marijuana mogul Helios Dayspring and currently operates a dispensary in Grover Beach. The permit awarded for the Grover Beach dispensary has been the subject of separate pay-for-play allegations centered around Helios and a former mayor of the South County city.

On Oct. 28, Dayspring and Natural Healing Center hosted a fundraiser for eight local politicians, including San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon, Councilwoman Carlyn Christianson and now-Councilwoman Erica Stewart. Thousands of dollars were donated at the event to candidates for local office, including the trio currently seated on the SLO council.

In her campaign finance disclosure forms, Harmon reported three donations from affiliates of Natural Healing Center, eight from affiliates of Megan’s Organic Market, and one from a minority owner of Elemental Wellness. Harmon also had four donations linked to SLO Cal Roots, one of the applicants that was not awarded a permit.

Stewart received donations from four affiliates of Natural Healing Center, three affiliates of Megan’s Organic Market, a minority owner of Elemental Wellness, and two affiliates of SLO Cal Roots. Christianson accepted donations from three affiliates of both Natural Healing Center and Megan’s Organic Market and a minority owner of Elemental Wellness.

While Harmon, Christianson and Stewart each accepted multiple donations from people affiliated with the marijuana industry, those donors were generally listed on campaign finance forms as retired or under a non-marijuana related occupation. In response to questions about contributions she received in connection with Dayspring’s fundraiser, Harmon amended her 460 financial disclosures, removing multiple donations and all dates of donations, as well as five expenses.

Just weeks after the Nov. 2018 election, Harmon and Christianson voted for a resolution establishing criteria for city staff to rank marijuana shop applicants. Stewart had not yet been sworn into office at the time.

The city council resolution created a points system that appeared to favor applicants who donated money to Harmon, Christianson, and Stewart, particularly Dayspring. For instance, the scoring process awarded points for having a history of supporting local community programs. Dayspring’s Natural Healing Center has put on several community events, including gatherings for children, despite being a pot business.

Megan’s Organic Market, owned by Megan Souza and Eric Powers, has functioned for several years as a local medical marijuana delivery service. After Cal Coast Times reported on the campaign contributions given by marijuana industry affiliates to local elected officials, Megan’s Organic Market owners called Cal Coast Times advertisers and threatened them in an attempt to get them to pull their advertising.

Elemental Wellness is owned by Randolph Dale and Matt Quaglino, who have also operated a local medical pot delivery service.

The three dispensaries SLO city officials selected beat out five other marijuana businesses that applied for a permit to operate a brick and mortar shop in SLO. The five marijuana businesses whose permit applications city officials rejected are: SLO CAL Roots, 805 Beach Breaks, Coastal Retail SLO, Harvest of San Luis Obispo and Hollister SLO.

805 Beach Breaks, which has a Grover Beach pot shop, last year became San Luis Obispo County’s first brick and mortar marijuana dispensary to open under California’s new cannabis legalization program. However, deputies and police officers from multiple agencies raided the Grover Beach marijuana store Thursday morning, and seized marijuana products related to an illegal grow in Los Alamos.

Thursday’s notice on the city website also announced the recipient of one marijuana delivery service permit and one pot micro-business permit. Coastal Delivery SLO received the delivery permit, and Element 7 San Luis Obispo received the micro-business permit.

City officials opted not to issue a permit to one non-storefront business, Lab Tested SLO. All of the permits awarded to the prevailing applicants are contingent upon the business owners passing background checks.

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The whole marijuana law and how it is applied is a joke. Recreational marijuana is legalized by voters, but we let 58 county board of supervisors decide if it can be cultivated in their counties. Some counties say no, some yes, but with tight controls and some counties are like the wild west. Illegally non permitted cannabis is grown and diverted to the black market, knocking the legs out from under growers who play by the rules. Enforcement by the county governments is spotty at best.

Cities and counties are allowed to regulate sales by issuing permits. Talk about a system ripe for “pay to play”.

The state legislature needs to take control away from local jurisdictions and manage marijuana like it does alcohol.

There may still be corruption but at least it won’t be at city hall, enforcement of the marijuana regulations will be uniformly applied and taxes will be collected (remember money is the greatest motivator). Show California a revenue stream and they will be all over it.

Ugh, I hate the pot industry so much

WTF? Pot is legal. Every retail outlet should able to trade cash for weed. Why you gotta go ‘F’ up free trade. When I walk into Walmart, I should be able to walk out with a shopping cart full of weed. Oh, don’t forget to prosecute the merchant that gives away straws and single use plastic bags!

Money hungry power hungry equals corruption.

It’s called tribute. Is there any difference between government and the mafia?

Great point! I pondered the question and came up with two HUGE differences and one smaller difference between the two:

The mafia rarely takes more than 30%, while we are taxed by the various facets of government to the tune of 70+%.

The mafia has killed and tortured thousands of people. The government has killed and tortured millions.

The mafia controls limited territory and you only have to pay protection money to one Don. The government has unlimited and universal territory and you have to pay protection money to many Dons; state, federal, local, regulatory agencies, utility taxes, excise taxes, property taxes, Medicare, etc.

All in all, I think we’d all be better off under the Mafia. Plus, perhaps we’d have more good Italian food.

What a surprise! This Council and staff clearly designed the selection criteria to guarantee that the contributors and supporters of our Mayor and Council from the marijuana industry would be ultimately selected in this perverted process.

After enduring 2 years of investigations that many of us hoped would prove President Trump as a colluder with the Russians–only to end up being a time-consuming, very expensive popcorn fart– here we have the unvarnished, documented, pay-to-play collusion of our neo-progressive Mayor and City Council with the moguls of marijuana right here in river city! And who’s going to do what about it?

Last question: Will the FBI or Dan Dow NOW do their jobs?

I wonder how much in additional funds went straight into their back pockets.

I thinks it’s clear to most people that Heidi Harmon, Carlyn Christianson and Erika Stewart are corrupt, and this whole illegal quid quo pro needs to be investigated by the SLO Civl Grand Jury.

How ironic that the so-called ‘SLO Progressives’ claim to embrace futuristic politics, when, in reality, they are retreading Chicago machine-style politics, and these crooked public servants ought to be ashamed of themselves. In particular, Harmon likes to preface her calls for moronic public policy changes by claiming she’s doing it’ for the children’, but I wonder how Ms. Harmon’s embrace of drug dealers to fund her political campaigns squares with ‘doing it for the kids’?

If Mr. T. Keith Gurnee was elected mayor, he might have voted to allow cannabis cultivation and medical marijuana, bit I do not think Mr. Gurnee would have sold his integrity by making corrupt quid pro quo agreements with the local drug dealer crowd.

Shame on Heidi Harmon, Carlyn Christianson & Erika Stewart.

Speak truth to power.