State files lawsuit against Nipomo marijuana processing company

By KAREN VELIE

The California Department of Food and Agriculture filed a lawsuit last week against a Nipomo marijuana processing and storage company for operating without a state license. The state is seeking fines and permission to destroy cannabis products.

In March, state investigators raided Lowell Farms at 887 Mesa Road, the former Clearwater Nursery. Regulators seized 1,387 pounds of loose flower buds, 7,162 jars of flower buds, 7,772 rolled packaged joints, 28 pounds of loose rolled joints, 125 pounds of cannabis kief and 60 pounds of cannabis shake.

During the raid, defendant Brett Myers Vapnek admitted the company had been operating without a license from Dec. 2018 through March 13, 2019, according to the lawsuit. Vapnek also runs Nipomo Ag, a cannabis cultivation facility.

State laws allow penalties of up to three times the cost of a state license for every day a company operates without a permit. The annual processor license fee is $9,370.

The state is asking the court to order the defendants — Vapnek, David Elias, Lowell Farms, and The Hacienda Company — to pay civil penalties, to pay for the cost of destroying the cannabis products, and to pay court costs.

“By engaging in unlicensed commercial cannabis activity, defendants placed unregulated cannabis into the cannabis market, thereby causing economic harm to California’s legal commercial cannabis industry and supporting the illegal cannabis market,” according to the lawsuit. “Defendants’ distribution and sale of illegal products that are potentially untested … create grave public health and safety risks to Californians.

“Moreover, by engaging in unlicensed commercial cannabis activity, defendants deprived the CDFA of licensing fees and tax revenue.”

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