By JOSH FRIEDMAN
The city of San Luis Obispo will allow embattled marijuana mogul Helios Dayspring’s Natural Healing Center to open with his girlfriend holding the controlling ownership stake, though the dispensary risks losing its permit if it does not begin operating within the next five weeks. [New Times]
Dayspring, who recently pleaded guilty to charges of bribery and filing a false tax return, initially had an 88% ownership stake in Natural Healing Center’s San Luis Obispo location. Last year, while under investigation by the FBI, Dayspring transferred his share of the business to his girlfriend Valnette Garcia.
San Luis Obispo officials allowed the transfer because it followed the rules outlined in the city’s cannabis ordinance, City Attorney Christine Dietrick said.
Prior to the transfer, Garcia had a 3% ownership stake in the business. Since Garcia had already been vetted by the city during its review of Natural Healing Center’s initial application, she did not need to go through any further review, city officials decided.
Attorney Paul Ready notified the city of the ownership transfer from Dayspring to Garcia on Sept. 9, 2020. Dietrick acknowledged the transfer on Oct. 29, 2020.
The city’s cannabis ordinance allows business owners to to seek ownership changes. Businesses must notify the city about proposed transfers. If the proposed new owner is not already a permitted cannabis operator in the city, the individual must pay fees and undergo a background check, among other requirements.
Following Natural Healing Center’s ownership adjustment, the city received three more cannabis business ownership transfer requests. Upon receiving the second request, the city drafted new rules, which it released in July 2021.
The new rules require businesses seeking ownership transfers to follow detailed procedures, which include paying between $4,700 and $9,800 in fees to cover the city’s review. An internal ownership transfer, such as the one between Dayspring and Garcia, remains exempt from the additional requirements.
Dayspring is known to hold concealed ownership stakes in many cannabis grows. In the past, Dayspring has often been the primary owner of a project, even though formal paperwork does not indicate so. Additionally, Dayspring has a long history of using limited liability companies in a scheme to conceal ownership stakes and underreport his income from cannabis sales.
Nonetheless, the city of SLO is still permitting Natural Healing Center to open with Garcia holding the controlling ownership stake. Though the city is not penalizing Natural Healing Center for Dayspring’s criminal conduct, the business still runs the risk of losing its permit if it does not open for business by Oct. 22.
Originally, Natural Healing Center needed to open its San Luis Obispo location by Oct. 22, 2020, but it was granted a one-year extension because of complications stemming from the pandemic. If the business does not open by Oct. 22, 2021, the city can open a new application process for the dispensary permit slot Natural Healing Center was awarded.