Downtown businesses are claiming the Myrtle Beach City Council abused its power and denied free speech when it banned CBD oil and other products from being sold along Ocean Boulevard. As a result, they filed a federal lawsuit against the city.
The court filings give six causes for action, including violations of free speech, due process and equal protections.
Blue Smoke Vape Shop, Ani Creation Inc., the Myrtle Beach General Store, Pacific Beachwear, Red Hot Shoppe and others are the plaintiffs suing the city. The businesses filed the suit last week against the city, the council as a whole and all council members individually, including Mayor Brenda Bethune.
Bethune and Myrtle Beach spokesman Mark Kruea declined to comment, saying the city does not comment on ongoing lawsuit.
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The overlay district was created in August 2018, banning smokeshops, CBD oil and products with explicit references to sex or marijuana from being sold on Ocean Boulevard. The ordinance passed first reading in May 9, 2017.
It then passed second reading 15 months later in August of this year. It passed 5-2 with council members Gregg Smith and Mike Lowder opposing the motion.
The suit claims that between the two readings a lot of amendments were made that changed the character of the ordinance. The court filing said the City Council did not maintain the “procedural and legislative guidelines that have customarily been followed by the Council.”
The filing attached copies of the ordinance at first and second reading to show the differences. The first ordinance banned items making explicit references to sex and illegal drugs, but makes no mention to CBD oils, vapes or tobacco products.
The written purpose of the ordinance during both readings was to make Myrtle Beach look more family-friendly, according to both copies of the ordinance.
“We have to take control of what we’re offering, and when we say we want to make a family-friendly environment, we need to make sure every decision reflects that,” Bethune said in August during the second reading debate.
In addition, the court filing says most the business owners are Jewish, placing an unfair burden on the Jewish business community in Myrtle Beach.
“The Ordinance must fail any Equal Protection review due to the disparate impact that it has on the Jewish community in Myrtle Beach,” the court filing states.
The business have asked for a jury trial.