A lawsuit was filed in Federal Court yesterday on behalf of a group of ten current Myrtle Beach merchants who each operate businesses inside the city limits. The lawsuit was filed under the 1983 Civil Rights Act. Mayor Brenda Bethune, City Councilman Phil Render, City Councilman Mike Chestnut, City Councilwoman Mary Jeffcoat, Councilwoman Jackie Vereen, Councilman Gregg Smith and Councilman Mike Lowder are each being sued individually. The city of Myrtle Beach is being sued as well.
The lawsuit is in response to a special “overlay district” conceived by City Manager John Pedersen and created by City Council on August 14, 2018. The lawsuit is just one of among four lawsuits to be filed against the city by merchants (or former merchants) this year.
Current complaints include a suit against the City of Myrtle Beach and the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber filed by former hotel owner, Karon Mitchell, a second lawsuit alleges police intimidation, agressive code enforcement, and scare tactics against a former club owner in the Myrtle Beach Superblock who says he was forced out of business by the city, and this third current lawsuit now filed by 10 city business owners.
A fourth lawsuit is expected later this month by another former Superblock business owner also forced out of business by the city.
The filings of yesterday claim the City of Myrtle Beach deprived these business owners of certain rights of equal protection under the law as guaranteed them by the fifth and fourteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution. In August of this year, the city banned legal products, including CBD oils, which are allowed to be sold city-wide, with the exception of this one district.
Business owners have noted conflicts of interest by Mayor Bethune herself and her business concerns, which include the local Anheuser-Busch beer distributorship, which she owns.
Of special note, reported just yesterday by CBS news, the maker of Budweiser (Anheuser-Busch) is partnering with medical cannabis company Tilray in a $100 million deal to research cannabis-infused drinks . The products will only be sold in Canada in 2019, however, if successful, the corporation will certainly push to make the products legal in America as well. Anheuser-Busch InBev and Tilray Inc. said each would invest $50 million in the project to study non-alcoholic drinks containing cannabidiol, or CBD, which some claim has calming and healing affects, and THC, the cannabis compound known for its psychoactive effects.
Forbes reported this week “Alcohol Sales Dropped 15% In States With Medical Marijuana Laws”. In researching the same data, the Washington Post reported:
The study adds to a growing body of evidence showing that marijuana availability can reduce alcohol consumption. Because experts generally agree that, on balance, alcohol use is more harmful to individuals and society than marijuana use, this would represent a significant public health benefit of marijuana legalization.
Israeli Merchants Harassed
The complaint notes most of those affected by the special overlay ban are Myrtle Beach Israeli business owners.
Lawsuit also states this ban will decimate the value of these businesses. The ban violates the “TAKINGS CLAUSE”
Other Conflicts Mayor Bethune Will Have
The below CBD related products are sold inside the city by local business Studio 77. MyrtleBeachSC news has been made aware that Studio 77 will be relocating and leasing from a location owned by Mayor Bethune. These are the very products banned in the city’s overlay district.
Despite ongoing suits from the city’s own merchants, city council voted earlier this month to extend the contract of City Manager, John Pedersen giving him a 5% pay raise.
The suit seeks actual damages, legal fees, and a preliminary and permanent injunction against this overlay district.
MyrtleBeachSC news reached out to the city for a response on this suit, City Manager John Pedersen replied as below: