Santa Monica is inching one step closer to having a medical marijuana dispensary operating in town, as the city’s lengthy permitting and regulatory process continues to crawl forward.
On Wednesday, when the Santa Monica Planning Commission holds its first meeting of 2022, it will discuss issuing a conditional use permit (CUP) to a long-awaited medicinal cannabis retailer that plans to move in at 1416 Wilshire Boulevard between 14th and 15th streets — not far from UCLA Medical Center.
But even if the Planning Commission decides to issue a CUP on Thursday, that is just the first in a laundry list of licenses, permits and fees needed to begin operations. Among the slew of permits and certificates required are cannabis permits, a county health permit, a seller’s permit, insurance and an approved compliance report from code enforcement, plus required fees (around $20,000), before its doors may open.
The retailer, under the name Harvest of Santa Monica, LLC, is seeking to operate a 2,480-square-foot licensed medical cannabis retail facility, with proposed hours of operation from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12 p.m. – 7 p.m. Sunday, with delivery also offered within those hours.
The proposed shop would not issue physician recommendations for medicinal cannabis, meaning customers would need to arrive with existing medical marijuana cards. That also differentiates it from the much-disparaged Venice Boulevard-style pot shops that famously offer medical cards on site.
Harvest is part of a multi-state vertically integrated company encompassing cultivation and both recreational and medicinal cannabis dispensaries with locations in states including Arizona, Florida, Maryland and Pennsylvania, in addition to Napa, Palm Springs, Grover Beach, and Venice, Calif. In Santa Monica, Harvest will only dispense medicinal cannabis — with no growing or recreational retail approved.
“The company has more than 425 employees with proven experience, expertise and knowledge of in-house best practices that are drawn upon whenever Harvest enters new markets,” according to a 2018 press release announcing Harvest’s winning bid to operate one of Santa Monica’s two permitted cannabis retail facilities.
“Since its founding in 2011, Harvest has grown its footprint every year and now has more than 60 licenses in 12 states, with planned expansion into additional states by 2020,” according to the statement.
The hearing comes more than three years after the company won a bid to secure one of two Medicinal Cannabis Retailer Permits issued by the City of Santa Monica. The bid process ran from December 2017 through February 2018, garnering 21 applications. By December 2018, Harvest and another retailer, CPC Compassion, Inc., were named the city’s top choices.
The 21 applicants were ranked in seven categories, with the most weight given to: “experience operating a retail establishment,” “financial viability” and “experience operating a medicinal cannabis retail establishment.”
According to a Santa Monica ordinance, only two medicinal cannabis retailers may be operational at any time; no non-medical pot shops may operate in town.
In October 2021, CPC Compassion earned its CUP but had not yet secured a Santa Monica business license or California Bureau of Cannabis Control license, according to online directories. CPC Compassion’s dispensary is to be located at 925 Wilshire Blvd.
Several residents contacted the city to voice their opposition to the proposed Harvest project with many emails raising concerns about the facility’s proximity to Lincoln Middle School.
Resident Steve Rice opposed the application. In addition to questioning the proximity of the location to Lincoln Middle School, he raised other problems.
“A few of my concerns include: Impaired driving, attracting crime, accessibility to marijuana, edibles found by kids inadvertently left or lost by a customer, & an armed security guard on duty,” Rice wrote. “This shop is steps away from the bus stop as well. Protect our kids do not allow this to happen please.”
The staff report did not specifically address the proposed proximity to a school campus, but while the Santa Monica Municipal Code designates that “Medical Marijuana Dispensaries are prohibited within 600 feet of a Child Care and Early Education or Family Day Care Facility, park, school, library, Social Service Center, or other Medical Marijuana Dispensary,” Lincoln Middle School is located outside of that protected zone, about 800 feet from the proposed location.
The terms of the CUP state that no cannabis would be cultivated or consumed at the subject property. On-site consumption is also barred in the Municipal Code.
The hearing will take place during the virtual Wednesday, Jan. 5, Planning Commission meeting, which is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. and can be viewed online at https://www.youtube.com/user/Citytv16santamonica or https://www.smgov.net/video.