Accused of lying to police, a Fresno businessman had his cannabis permit revoked by city officials.
Eddie Rodriguez is listed as CEO and 70% owner of Truffle Tree 420. He received a microbusiness permit in the social equity category.
A memo Tuesday from City Manager Georgeanne White and deputy city manager Jennifer Ruiz to the mayor and city council stated that “the applicant admitted to making multiple false statements to the (Fresno police) Officer during the interview.”
The cannabis code states knowingly making false statements is a disqualifying factor.
Truffle Tree 420 received preliminary approval for its commercial cannabis permit and has an active conditional use permit application with the planning department.
The business also received grants and loans totaling $222,006 that will now have to be paid back.
“The City has sent an invoice to the applicant in an attempt to pursue repayment of any unspent monies,” the memo said. The city said it would “consider all potential remedies” to recover the money.
Neither Rodriguez nor his business partners responded to inquiries from GV Wire.
The Loan Agreement
Truffle Tree 420 was one of five social equity applicants to receive grant and loan funding. Several licenses in all categories — retail, microbusiness, and others — were set aside for the social equity category. Rodriguez qualified by having a low household income, with a past conviction for a cannabis crime.
The city council in 2021 approved a $1.2 million grant with the state Cannabis Equity Act Grant Funding, to assist with licensing and fees. It also provided no-interest loans.
On April 27, 2023, the city council, by a 5-1 vote awarded Truffle Tree a $75,000 loan, a $33,000 grant, and an additional $114,006 from state grants for start-up costs — a total of more than $222,000. Garry Bredefeld voted no, and Mike Karbassi was absent.
Councilman Has Questions
The proposed location for Truffle Tree 420 is in the council district of Miguel Arias. He said that he was “blindsided” by the news and wants answers.
“I’m not satisfied by the vetting that was done at the administrative level, nor am I satisfied by the explanation that was given for the termination of the loan,” Arias said. “If we’re going to terminate their loan, then we need a broader explanation than simply that the police department was not satisfied with their responses to questions.”
The city did not specify which statements to police were false. A spokeswoman said the city vetted the loan agreement with Truffle Tree 420 by revising the application and Livescan fingerprinting.
It is unclear why police were interviewing Rodriguez in June, even though his applications were already in city hands.
“It doesn’t make sense to me,” Arias said.
Arias said he voted for the loans based on a recommendation from the administration. His office is barred from conducting its own vetting, he said, to maintain neutrality in all cannabis licensing matters.
Applied for Retail Business Before
Rodriguez and his business partners applied for a retail license in 2021 under the name Supreme Flower Rx. Even though he was not granted a license, he still moved forward with the proposed location near the River Park shopping center.
At the time, Rodriguez told GV Wire that he qualified as a social equity applicant because he spent time in jail in 2000 for a marijuana conviction.
He also said the process for awarding licenses was unfair.
Wanted to Operate a Microbusiness
Fresno, in its 2018 regulations passed by the city council, defined a microbusiness as a cannabis cultivator of less than 10,000 square feet. Regulations of how and where to operate differ from those for retail marijuana businesses.
Truffle Tree 420 planned to operate at 245 M Street a block away from Highway 41. The location is in an industrial area near downtown Fresno, at the Lincoln Electric/Barnes Welding Supply building.
A construction crew was at the site Wednesday, working on the otherwise empty building.