Hemp growers report chilly reception in South Salt Lake City Hall


Chris Fontes says he after procured a Heber City enterprise license inside about six days. Not too long ago, the state turned about his application for an industrial hemp developing license in about a week, he says.

But it is been some 40 days given that he submitted a enterprise license application to South Salt Lake, and he and his enterprise companion are nonetheless waiting for approval.

The owners of Meraki Farms, a organization hunting to develop hemp, say they really feel like South Salt Lake’s officials have been dragging their feet processing this paperwork. Fontes and his enterprise companion, Robert Allen, suspect the delay has to do with the nature of their enterprise — though they know of practically nothing in South Salt Lake’s law that would preclude a hemp grower from settling in the city.

“If I wanted to go in there and develop indoor lettuce, I do not assume it would be a dilemma,” Allen mentioned. “I would’ve currently had my license.”

Their struggles are shared by other Utah cannabis organizations that are browsing for a spot to place down roots, according to J.D. Lauritzen, an lawyer who’s been advising some of these entrepreneurs and has spoken with Fontes. The current specific session of the Legislature on health-related cannabis addressed some of these difficulties by requiring municipalities to permit health-related marijuana organizations inside suitable places.

“These identical sorts of heavy-handed guidelines do not actually exist on the hemp side of issues,” the Salt Lake City lawyer mentioned. “So it is actually up to the neighborhood ordinance and often the discretion of these neighborhood municipalities.”

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) Keith Keyser, founder of Moon Lake Farms, working with hemp seedlings in North Salt Lake, July 12, 2019.
(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) Keith Keyser, founder of Moon Lake Farms, operating with hemp seedlings in North Salt Lake, July 12, 2019.
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South Salt Lake City Councilman Shane Siwik mentioned he does not fully grasp the holdup in processing Fontes’ application.

“I am conscious of what he’s going by means of, and as far as I know, other enterprise license applications do not take this extended,” he mentioned.

Siwik mentioned there’s tiny the council can do to streamline the licensing procedure but believes Mayor Cherie Wood’s administration ought to be concerned that Fontes and Allen have began to seek the advice of with an lawyer.

“The reality is, if I was receiving that type of runaround, I’d almost certainly take legal action, as well,” Siwik mentioned.

But a South Salt Lake spokeswoman mentioned the processing time is not absolutely out of the ordinary, in particular for the reason that some city departments are operating with lowered employees correct now.

“Given how busy they are it is not uncommon,” Lindsey Ferrari, the city spokeswoman, mentioned.

Tom Paskett, executive director of the Utah Cannabis Association, mentioned the assessment time does appear excessive, adding that he is not conscious of any other hemp growers who have run into the delays and troubles reported by Fontes and Allen.

“This deal with Meraki Farms has been the climax so far,” he mentioned.

Fontes, who’s also CEO of a different organization that facilitates wholesale obtaining and promoting of hemp, mentioned he runs the enterprise side of Meraki Farms, though Allen will manage the developing. Their target is to cultivate hemp inside a roughly 1,000-square-foot warehouse that they’ve been renting on West Temple.

The licensing delay has place them behind schedule in opening their enterprise and producing income to spend rent and cover their personal salaries, they mentioned. Allen, who moved to Utah from California earlier this year for the venture, has had to uncover a diverse job to tide him more than.

“We’re a month-and-a-half behind on developing,” Allen mentioned.

Fontes and Allen initial applied for a enterprise license from South Salt Lake on Sept. 10 but had to resubmit applying a diverse kind. City officials then directed them to turn in FBI background checks for each and every enterprise owner, a requirement that Fontes mentioned he couldn’t uncover anyplace in city ordinances. And he argues asking for the verify could be unconstitutional, if the city is arbitrarily treating him differently from other license applicants.

“Can you deny a enterprise license for the reason that of one thing you uncover in that background verify?” he asked city council members for the duration of a September meeting. “I uncover it extremely inappropriate to ask for that sort of point.”

Lauritzen also named the city’s request potentially problematic.

“If they are getting asked to do one thing that is not necessary of other folks, there is possible for an equal protection violation,” the lawyer mentioned. “Generally, you happen to be treating a single group differently than you’d treat a different group below the law.”

Ferrari mentioned the city’s code does let for officials to request criminal background checks.

Fontes ended up supplying the FBI checks, but the difficulties continued even afterward, he mentioned. For about six weeks given that then, just about every time he asks for an update from the city, he’s gotten the identical answer — that his application is in a queue and will be processed in the order received.

“I do not want to trigger a huge fuss, but I do intend to get our enterprise license as legally permitted,” he mentioned.


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