By KAREN VELIE
The Grover Beach City Council selected two applicants for the city’s coveted medical marijuana dispensaries on Monday evening. Both winners are major donors to political campaigns in the South County city, having given about $4,000 and $5,000 respectively to a pair of council members and a local lobbyist connected to them.
The council veered from staff’s recommendations, which ranked The Milkman first, The Monarch second, Natural Healing Center third and GDI Grover Beach Retail fourth, selecting two groups affiliated with political consultant Cory Black.
Helios Dayspring, the co-owner of the top overall selected applicant Natural Healing Center, is a controversial marijuana business man who has sponsored children’s events in order to promote his pot brand. The other winning team, The Monarch, is tied directly to the League of California Cities, a powerful nonprofit that has lobbied cities on marijuana policy.
Another client of Black’s consulting firm, 805 Beach Breaks, was ranked six out of seven by staff and appeared unlikely to win one of the coveted top two spots even though the owner had reportedly bragged she had been guaranteed a slot. However, on Monday night the council voiced plans to allow an additional one or two applicants to open dispensaries in 2018.
In line for the third or fourth permitted dispensary are The Milkman and 805 Beach Breaks, which tied for third and fourth place. In Oct., the council will determine whether to open an additional one or two slots.
The co-owners of the Natural Healing Center are David Separzadeh, who has been involved in several multi-million dollar commercial real estate deals in Los Angeles, and Dayspring, the owner of a San Luis Obispo County marijuana delivery service and multiple large marijuana grows.
Dayspring has been involved in a variety of controversial activities. In April, Dayspring organized an Easter Egg hunt in Grover Beach for children ages 1 through 11, which was sponsored by his pot delivery service. Last December, his mobile dispensary sponsored a Christmas toy giveaway for kids. In between the two events, Dayspring was targeted in a home invasion robbery in Atascadero in which robbers masqueraded as police officers reportedly snatched 100 pounds of medical pot and more than $100,000 in cash.
Separzadeh and Dayspring did not make direct donations to recent Grover Beach political campaigns. However, their affiliates contributed a combined $4,000 to Mayor John Shoals and Councilman Jeff Lee.
Craig Smith, the project architect for Natural Healing Center, contributed $100 to the 2016 reelection campaigns of both Shoals and Lee. Black, whom Dayspring hired for consulting work, contributed through multiple channels a combined $3,800 to Shoals and Lee.
Black, the owner of the firm Public Policy Solutions and a consultant for numerous SLO County policymakers, gave $250 through his business to Lee’s campaign. Through a campaign committee he set up for a Grover Beach marijuana ballot measure, Black contributed $3,550 in monetary and nonmonetary contributions to Shoals’ mayoral campaign.
Shoals and Lee together make up the Grover Beach Council Subcommittee on Marijuana, about which city officials refuse to disclose details. Though the council never agendized the formation of the subcommittee nor voted to create it, the committee was placed in charge of determining criteria and rules regarding marijuana and the permit application process.
The second overall finisher in the Grover Beach pot shop race is The Monarch, a pot business consisting of six principals, three of whom have ties to the League of California Cities.
Patrick Shannon, The Monarch’s chief operating officer, is a former employee of the League of California Cities; Antolin Cardenas, another principal, currently works as the League’s public affairs regional manager for its Orange County Division; and the CEO of the Monarch, Sunni Mullinax, is married to David Mullinax, the League’s local representative on the Central Coast.
David Mullinax has advocated for Central Coast cities to enact bans on medical marijuana dispensaries, though he has refrained from doing so in Grover Beach, drawing accusations that The Monarch used the League of Cities’ influence to stifle potential competition.
Following their selection as the top two, Natural Healing Center and The Monarch must now obtain a series of permits before they open their doors to the public.