Los Angeles Magazine Issues Retraction for Cannabis Corruption Article

This story was originally published by the Santa Barbara Independent and is reproduced here in partnership with Edhat.

By Nick Welsh, The Independent

Santa Barbara’s Interim Police Chief Bernard Melekian announced he’s contracted with a firm that specializes in investigating public safety agencies to look into conflict-of-interest allegations in an article published by Los Angeles magazine against Anthony Wagner, the department’s public information officer and community relations advisor. 

The article alleged that Wagner had been a business partner with one of the principals of a San Diego–based cannabis dispensary company, Golden State Greens, that sought and received one of the three cannabis dispensary permits issued by the City of Santa Barbara two years ago. Wagner was one of five high-ranking city employees charged with evaluating the applications submitted by individuals and companies competing for the coveted permits. 

The article, written by freelance reporter, former screenwriter, and until recently Santa Barbara resident Mitchell Kriegman, alleged that cannabis entrepreneur Micah Anderson had been a principal with Golden State Greens when it successfully sought the city’s permit. Anderson had been business partners with Wagner when the two lived in San Diego and operated a consulting firm together specializing in cannabis permitting. Wagner moved to Santa Barbara in 2017 at the instigation of former Santa Barbara Police Chief Lori Luhnow, who hired him to be her right-hand man on issues relating to cannabis and alcohol regulations as well as her spokesperson and general advisor.

The article, it turned out, was factually incorrect and the conflict-of-interest it alleged did not exist. Anderson, records show, was not involved with Golden State Greens and its efforts to secure a dispensary in Santa Barbara. Los Angeles magazine has since issued a retraction, which reads: “A prior version of this story incorrectly identified Micah Anderson as one of the owners that applied for a cannabis dispensary license for Golden State Greens in Santa Barbara. The information we have been provided since the article was published shows that Mr. Anderson was neither an owner of Golden State Greens nor involved in the application process in Santa Barbara. We apologize for any confusion.”

Melekian explained that he is still proceeding with the investigation out of an abundance of caution sparked by the article. “We’re doing our due diligence here,” he said, explaining that Sintra Professional Investigations would explore any relationships that might exist between Wagner and any of the principals of Golden State Greens. Wagner has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. 

Sintra was started in 2002 by Steve Bowman, a retired assistant chief with the Ventura Police Department. Melekian said that the background check will cost no more than $7,500 and the results should be final within a few weeks. 

The allegations in Kriegman’s article qualified as a major news bombshell when the story initially broke. Wagner has issued a detailed demand for a retraction, far more sweeping than the one already issued. Santa Barbara City Administrator Paul Casey, City Attorney Ariel Calonne, and Interim Police Chief Melekian have released a detailed list of other errors they claimed the article contained. 

Although Golden State Greens managed to secure one of the three permits issued by the City of Santa Barbara for a location by State Street and Ontare Road — and obtained all the necessary building permits — it never opened the proposed dispensary. Instead it sold a portion of its shares ― for an undisclosed amount said to be worth many millions ― to a cannabis company named Jushi from Boca Raton, Florida, which opened its doors several months ago and is currently operating.


 March 14, 2021: Investigative Journalist Hints at Santa Barbara City Corruption

 March 15, 2021: Deciphering the Bombshell LA Magazine Piece that Just Hit City Hall

 March 15, 2021: Santa Barbara City Employee Placed on Administrative Leave Following Article

 March 17, 2021: Lots of Innuendo but Little Substance in Los Angeles Magazine Article

 March 18, 2021: Santa Barbara Officials Respond to Claims in LA Magazine Article

 March 22, 2021: Santa Barbara Police Department Hires Firm to Investigate Employee


Written by Nick Welsh

What do you think?


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  1. No smoke, no fire. The Los Angeles Magazine article has no duck, no quack, no swimming, nothing except a city employee that got into a verbal altercation with George the barber at a 7-11. Cut to the worlds tiniest violin. It looks like the LA Mag office got a letter from someone’s lawyer. Meanwhile the highly acclaimed animation kids show writer that broke this hard hitting fairy tale errrr story is hiding out in Portugal.

  2. It is not a sign of incompetence to issue a retraction to a single portion of an article, rather a sign of allegiance to truthful reporting. That is a GOOD THING. I wish more news orgs would correct themselves when they find mistakes. It is an important part of journalism. We should celebrate people correcting their mistakes, not make nasty comments.

  3. The main theme of the article was the alleged conflict of interest in the pot shop selection. process, other than that they have a verbal dustup at a 7-11 and the usual braying about high government salaries. This retraction takes all credibility away the conflict of interest scandal Nothing burger.

  4. Hold on a second!!! The permits that were JUST created as this was JUST made legal have always been transferable???? You are Leaning a little too hard into this one anonymous… that literally and legitimately sounds fishy …

  5. Yes the pot shop permits are new to the City of Santa Barbara and they have always been transferrable. Dave was posting that Casey made a change to the policy as a favor to one of the permit holders. Get your act together Duke. You are embarrassing yourself.

  6. So why was this article written in the first place? As some have suggested, it was a political hit piece. Coming out right around election time…
    Follow the money, in this case of Mitchell Kriegman. Interesting that he left for overseas (in a pandemic, mind you) right before the article was published.
    Correlation does not imply causation, but I’d be interested to see what can be dug up on Mr. Kriegman…

  7. Click the “more news” button and read the Op-Ed for independent journalism not the propaganda put it by the “Not So Independent”/ City Hall.
    Did Tyler Hayden write this? Because Propagandist Nick Welsh published the same piece on the “Not So Independent’s” site too…

March Edness 2021: Day 18

Fiscalini Ranch Preserve in Cambria