California Cannabis Team Utilizes Anti-SLAPP Statute to Obtain Dismissal of Lawsuit Filed Against Pasadena’s Cannabis Program

March 2021

Once again, a Gordon & Rees California cannabis team led by Douglas Smurr, Charles Berwanger, and Reid Dammann utilized California’s anti-SLAPP statute to parlay a pivotal defense settlement resulting in the dismissal with prejudice of a lawsuit against the City of Pasadena and all other 121 commercial cannabis applicants including its client, Harvest of Pasadena, LLC (“Harvest”).

In September of 2019, WOW Health and Wellness, LLC ("WOW"), which placed in 56th position in Pasadena’s cannabis selection process, filed a petition for writ of mandamus and complaint against the City of Pasadena and each commercial cannabis applicant as real parties in interest. 

Unhappy with not being declared a top scoring applicant, WOW’s lawsuit sought to invalidate Pasadena’s entire cannabis selection process by alleging four causes of action: (1) preemptory writ of mandate; (2) Declaratory Relief re violation of California Constitution, Article II, Section 11; (3) Declaratory Relief re violation of California Constitution, Article XIII; and (4) Injunctive Relief.

After being served, Harvest filed an anti-SLAPP motion asking the court to dismiss WOW’s lawsuit.  Shortly thereafter, Harvest’s application was selected as the top-scoring applicant for the cannabis permit in the City’s prized third council district in Old Pasadena. The trial court denied Harvest’s motion, and immediately thereafter, Harvest appealed the court’s decision.

In the Second District Court of Appeal, WOW filed a motion attempting to dismiss Harvest’s appeal, but the Court of Appeal denied WOW’s motion, ruling that Harvest’s appeal could move forward.  After the Court of Appeal denied WOW’s motion, WOW agreed to dismiss its lawsuit against Harvest, the City of Pasadena, and all other parties in exchange for Harvest dismissing its appeal and agreeing not to seek attorney’s fees against WOW.

Back in March of 2020, the same cannabis team obtained a similar result when it used the anti-SLAPP statute against the Atrium Group to force a dismissal with prejudice of the lawsuit Atrium filed in the United States District Court.