Before Stormy Daniels’ Lawyer Sued Trump, He Helped A Giant Pot Farm In California

Before Michael Avenatti’s current lawsuit against Donald Trump, he represented a cannabis farm that will employ more than 500 people.

Jul 6, 2018
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 16: Michael Avenatti, attorney for Stormy Daniels, speaks to reporters as he exits the United States District Court Southern District of New York for a hearing related to Michael Cohen, President Trump's longtime personal attorney and confidante, April 16, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 16: Michael Avenatti, attorney for Stormy Daniels, speaks to reporters as he exits the United States District Court Southern District of New York for a hearing related to Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime personal attorney and confidante, April 16, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Michael Avenatti, the now-famous lawyer who’s suing the president of the United States, was recently found to have worked on a case involving a massive cannabis grow in the California desert.

Avenatti is known by most as the lawyer representing Stephanie Clifford—more well-known for her pornographic film stage name, Stormy Daniels—in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump over an alleged nondisclosure agreement which prevented her from disclosing details about their sexual relationship. But before taking on this high-profile case with Clifford, Avenatti was fighting to get a major cannabis business off the ground.

Specifically, Avenatti was helping the company Desert Harvest Development LLC, which was planning to build a 1.5 million square foot indoor cannabis farm in Desert Hot Springs, California. The company had also considered building a cannabis dispensary on the property.

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View overlooking the city of Desert Hot Springs, California at dusk. (Photo by Raymond Shobe via Flickr)

Avenatti’s involvement with Desert Harvest Development LLC reportedly began sometime around March 2017. Avenatti’s representation of Clifford in her lawsuit against Trump began the following March, in 2018.

Avenatti’s involvement with the cannabis growing project was first reported by the Desert Sun—a USA Today network news website—which used a California Public Records Act request to obtain over 1,000 emails related to the case. While Avenatti was copied in over 100 of these emails, he only corresponded directly with city officials in four email threads.

Avenatti’s emails to the City Council aimed to establish a firm start date for the project and warned that delaying the project could have fatal consequences for the business venture. The lawyer made similar efforts to get the project rolling during City Council hearings, in which he was successful in persuading the council to approve the project.

It’s still somewhat unclear what Avenatti’s exact relationship to the company was, although his signature is on a permit application for the company. When asked by the Desert Sun, he claimed to have been an “outside legal counsel” and says he’s since given up interest in the initiative. “I represent over a 100 other corporate clients in various fields and this is no different,” wrote Avenatti to the Desert Sun.

Avenatti’s last correspondence with the city was reportedly in December.

The project was given the green light to move forward in November 2017, and Avenatti responded to a Desert Sun email request to say that the company still plans to buy the land and build their facility with its $50 million budget. 

As the Desert Sun writes, the entire project could generate an estimated $14 million in yearly tax revenue, and employ over 500 people, according to a city staff report. California’s Department of Food & Agriculture, however, has yet to receive any cannabis license applications from Desert Harvest.

Jul 6, 2018