Oct 22, 2018
A group of Sonoma County residents has filed a lawsuit to shut down an illegal pot grow and cannabis tourism operation in the Purvine Road neighborhood. The suit alleges that the unlicensed grower is transforming a peaceful stretch of the Petaluma Dairy Belt into an unlawful cannabis event venue, corporate retreat and cannabis tourism destination.
The grow, locatedon Purvine Road, has been operating without a permit since 2017. According to neighbors, tourists regularly visit the property on “cannabis experience tours,” arriving on buses to view the cannabis operation and eat and relax at picnic tables in the cannabis field.
Neighbors also object to steps by the owners to turn the property into a cannabis event venue and retreat. Group dinners, featuring cannabis-infused food and cocktails, are hosted in a barn which the owners renovated for that purpose. The property is advertised online, for a minimum fee of $8,000, as a “private retreat” for up to 250 guests, with overnight accommodations and event-related offerings, such as furniture rental, staff and catering.
Neighbors are asking the court to halt these activities as illegal under both state and local law. Named as defendants in the lawsuit are the San Francisco-based property owner and cannabis operator,Petaluma Hills Farm, LLC andSonoma Hills Farm, LLC; their owners and officers; and the cannabis tour operator,The Sonoma County Experience, LLC.
On October 18, the court issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the defendants from cultivating cannabis without a license and permit; hosting cannabis events or engaging in cannabis promotional activities; sponsoring non-cannabis events without an event permit, and operating the property as a vacation rental or bed and breakfast. A further hearing is set for November.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are residents of Purvine Road and a neighborhood advocacy group, No Pot on Purvine. Phoebe Lang, one of the plaintiffs, said the neighbors took legal action when it became clear that their once-quiet neighborhood was under attack. “We cherish the beauty and tranquility of rural Sonoma,” she said, “and will fight to preserve our peaceful way of life. Purvine Road is no place for tour buses full of party-goers.”
Britt Christiansen, another plaintiff, added, “I want to raise my family in the country, not next to an event center and tourist stop. I love the fresh air and quiet evenings. I love knowing all my neighbors. All that will be lost if the cannabis tourism operation at 334 Purvine Road continues.”
Attorney Kevin Block of Block & Block LLP is representing the neighbors.“None of my clients is against legal cannabis,” he said. “But illegal cannabis, and cannabistourism are a different kettle of fish. Illegal operators must be shut down in order for legal operators to succeed. And the ban on cannabis tourism should be kept in place until the County can thoroughly study its detrimental neighborhood and environmental impacts.”
“We will be filing a code enforcement complaint with Sonoma County shortly,” Block continued. “The County has tools and resources that are not available to my clients as private citizens. We want and expect the County to be our full partner in ending the illegal activity on Purvine Road.”
No Pot on Purvine is comprised of 60+ neighbors living on, or around, Purvine Road. Headquartered in the countryside of Petaluma, our group's purpose is to prevent industrial-scale cannabis operations, like Sonoma/Petaluma Hills Farm, from usurping the limited natural resources in our area; contaminating groundwater and lowering the water table; bringing increased crime into our area; and endangering long-standing, legitimate agricultural businesses. We are dedicated to the social welfare and conservation of the Middle Two Rock area.
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