In this file photo, outside a marijuana dispensary on North Chester Avenue, a woman displays her newly purchased cannabis.

A confederation of local cannabis dispensaries has sued Kern County in federal court, alleging its ban on medical marijuana shops violates the group's constitutional rights.

The lawsuit alleges the county’s enforcement of the ban violates the 14th Amendment, which gives citizens the right to due process.

“(The) Kern County board of supervisors are (sic) using department heads to commit unlawful closures and seizure of property at gunpoint without due process of law or equal protection under the law,” said Attorney Abraham Labbad, who said he is representing 10 Kern County dispensaries.

He added that three dispensaries he represents were denied due process when the county shut them down.

Labbad is seeking upward of $60 million in real damages.

The seven other dispensaries involved in the lawsuit, all anonymous, are identified only as Citizens Against Corruption. They are still in business, Labbad said, and they fear retribution or taking action against the county.

Filed in U.S. District Court Eastern District last Thursday, the lawsuit names all five county supervisors along with several department heads and attorneys, as well as 1,000 unnamed people who the litigants claim are in some way involved in the lawsuit but could not be identified.

If the lawsuit is successful some dispensaries that were shut down by the county could potentially reopen.

The county has been served notice of the lawsuit and is in the process of reviewing it, said County Counsel Margot Raison. She said she could not comment further until the county has ad a chance to read the complaint fully.

Although consumption of marijuana remains legal, county supervisors banned sales of the drug in late 2017. The ban went into effect at the beginning of 2018.

A select group of 29 medical marijuana dispensaries was allowed to remain open with temporary permits granted by the Planning Department.

Dispensaries that were granted the permits became known as “legal non-conforming” dispensaries and were entered onto a list maintained by the county.

That list has been hotly debated ever since, with allegations of favoritism raised as some dispensaries were taken off the list and others added.

The Planning Department, which oversees the ban, comes under heavy fire in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that the Planning Department arbitrarily placed dispensaries on the legal non-conforming list based on the whims of Planning Director Lorelei Oviatt and her staff.

“If a dispensary owner is ‘liked’ by the Planning Director, their shop will not be raided and will remain open,” the lawsuit states. “However, if the opposite is true, then the business will no longer be in business, the owners and operators will be arrested and assets will be confiscated and forfeited.

Oviatt said the county does not generally discuss pending litigation, but she did offer one comment.

“There’s no foundation for the allegations in this lawsuit,” she said.

The lawsuit also states that the county targeted people of non-Caucasian backgrounds when it raided dispensary businesses. Several of the litigants are of either Middle Eastern or Mexican heritage, and Labbad, who has represented dispensaries in Kern County before, is from the Middle East, according to court documents.

The parties sued have 21 days to respond to the lawsuit.

It is set for an initial scheduling conference April 25.

“We think we have a clear winner,” said David Abbasi, one of the dispensary owners involved in the lawsuit. “We’re mobilized, we’ve filed, and now we’re doing the follow-up work.”

You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415 or You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.

(12) comments


Perhaps there are better reasons (BOS strict liability CA) than stated here:


I'm amazed of the intelligence gathering of the people in the world I have two phones they're both in use but at opposite ends of the universe.Armstrong Cannabis Therapeutics

The Jackal

Another example of Kern corruption. Supervisors playing favorites and using the planning department to deny or authorize selectively. Pay-to-play schemes. Then costing taxpayers millions in Damages.


Having read Ms. Oviatts deposition, she's very clear that she makes all Cannabis related decisions. Arbitrarily deciding who's on a list without allowing a process to appeal. Her interpretation or decision made without a system to appeal is violation of the 14th amendment Due Process. Also consider this, Kern County has lost every lawsuit heard outside of the County Superior Court. They have violated the process they established to allow shops to become licensed. The Building Department is failing to provide final certificate of occupancy to permit holders, based on County Counsel. Ms. Oviatt has made comments that would also support the County Employee who just spoke about Ms. Oviatt behavior. Irregardless, Cannabis in Kern was passed in 2006 and 2009. Systematically attempting to subvert the will of the voters is going to be very difficult. Watching new shops opening again is a indication of the legal community's opinion.


As usual, this is just another example of "Entry Level" in drugs and law. Just hope the judge doesn't have any illnesses that cannabis oil is 'alleged' to treat. in this instance, Oviatt is 'right on'. Oh yeah . . . and then there's always Leticia 'afloat' in the background.
“We think we have a clear winner,” said David Abbasi, one of the dispensary owners involved in the lawsuit. “We’re mobilized, we’ve filed, and now we’re doing the follow-up work.” ('A'Huffin'- 'n-- A'puffin' $$ . . . all the while . . . )


Leticia Pot advocate Perez Has recused herself from all Cannabis related votes. Due in-part to her Cannabis loving Husband Fernando “A-Huff-in-A-Puffin free cannabis hord-n Harra. Law is Going to pinpoint the facts correctly. Has done a fantastic job pointing out the most obvious that the system has failed the people of Kern county. Raids happen next day shops re-open in the Same-place. Oviatte-loaf-a-lot is named by coworkers as corrupt. Dispatched employees in an undercover capacity to infiltrate operations. That type of conduct is unethical for the department.

Richard Saunders

Will be interesting to see if a federal court will grant relief to people doing business selling a product that is illegal under federal law.

The Jackal

The issue is due process so the nature of the business isn't of relevance. Everyone is afforded a due process under law. But not in Kern County.

Fram Smith

A reminder- REMUDA is an out of area individual, who is payed to make inflammatory comments. Be advised. For us folks who live here, this lawsuit was a predicted event. The County Board of Supervisors was entrusted to create a reasonable system to regulate cannabis- and they failed us. Why did the Supervisors not look at other places that have developed cannabis regulations that allow all those who play by the rules, to participate in a legal and fairly regulated cannabis market and industry? Instead, the Kern County Board of Supervisors voted to continue the cannabis prohibition in Kern County- with the exception of the selected 29 approved winners. The County will lose this lawsuit- and the taxpayers of Kern County are about to pay millions for the Supervisors poor decisions. And all because the Kern County Board of Supervisors has created a system in which they select the winners in the cannabis industry in Kern County- and everyone else who attemps to participate in the cannabis trade in Kern County, can plan on losing everything they own and a long prison sentence.


Gosh 'o Golly-Jeepers . . . Hey there, Fram-a-DimDum . . . ! Missed ya and your always swift 'n erudite (?) "Comeback-Commentaries" . . . laced with "powder 'n puffs". BTW, . . . "payed(sic?). Obviously you are also "geographically challenged" beyond your 'dialectic rhetoric'.
Hmmmm . . . If only we WERE 'paid $$' for these insights . . . eh? Do we know where YOU live? Now that Dave is gone and Zack is in, we here in (city redacted) never know who to call for answers.
Gee, maybe the Grand Jury knows . . . ya think?

The Jackal

Begone troll. No one understands your senseless gibberish.


The county needs to be sued for not administrating this cannabis industry in a fair manner , They have California State approved shops competing with non compliant Operating illegally shops .Witch is not fair as the State approved products cost more and are safe to use ,You don’t know what your getting in the other shops , Fungus,Mold , residue etc .Make this safe and leagal ? Or get rid of it all

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