Marijuana Retailers at Least Half-Year Away From Doing Business in Pasadena

Successful applicants must first find and secure retail locations, and then apply for a Conditional Use permit before opening

Published : Monday, June 10, 2019 | 5:39 AM

Third-highest ranked Atrium Group operates a high-end, luxury level retail store in Woodland Hills, and its Pasadena store is expected to be similar in presentation. Image courtesy Atrium

[Updated] “Nice job, now get to work.”

That’s the veiled message from the City of Pasadena to six cannabis companies chosen over 116 other retail store applicants to open dispensaries in Pasadena.

But their doors won’t be swinging open just yet. The six applicants with the highest scores still need to buy or lease a property in the right locations.

According to the City Manager Steve Mermell’s announcement of the winners last week, the final applicants also need to file for a conditional use permit (CUP) and provide additional information, including a verified lease on, or ownership of, a retail location compliant with the City’s cannabis ordinance.

Mermell also offered that he “was pleased with the high level of sophistication, experience and expertise demonstrated by the top scoring applicants and look forward to a positive relationship between future permitted dispensaries and our community.”

The City of Pasadena completed the review and scoring of applications received for commercial cannabis retailer permits and announced the six top-scoring applicants on June 5, 2019.

Applicants’ final scores were based on criteria outlined in the City’s cannabis ordinance. Applicants who met the criteria for such things as blending in design-wise with the neighborhood, or reducing the smell of marijuana in a dispensary’s environs, were awarded points.

“We are incredibly honored to have the opportunity to serve the people of Pasadena,” said Armen Yemenidjian, president of Green Thumb Industries, which owns top-scoring Integral Associates Dena. “Our priority is to offer the very best cannabis products and customer service and to fulfill our promise as a trusted community partner. We look forward to opening the store and becoming an active member of the Pasadena community.”

Richard McDonald, a Pasadena attorney who is authorized to speak for the company, said Friday he hopes that the process of opening for business doesn’t take more than six months, and said he could not predict a potential grand opening date.

Additionally, a security and community benefits plan are required as part of CUP application process. These will be reviewed by the City Planning Commission. No on-site consumption will be allowed in any of the city’s dispensary location, according to Derderian.

Integral Associates Dena officials are currently scouting locations, according to McDonald. He noted that the City’s cannabis ordinance limits dispensaries to one per city council district, and comes with distance separation requirements for residential neighborhoods, churches, and schools.

“So it’s a little tricky, but we are in the process of narrowing down some options,” McDonald told Pasadena Now.

Integral Associates Dena’s retail presentation, he explained, will be of the high-end type. McDonald said it is likely to be somewhere on the architectural spectrum between Old Pasadena’s Apple Store on one end and the Tiffany store at the other.

IAD is licensed in West Hollywood and is one of the finalists to be licensed in Culver City and are currently waiting to hear back from the City, according to McDonald. The company also has a large presence in Nevada, with operations in a number of other states.

“They are a well-established, well-experienced company that’s very familiar with working in a compliance and regulatory environment like this,” he said. “They have an excellent track record wherever they’ve gone, which is probably one of the reasons they were the top-scoring applicant.”

The company also came to the application process with some decent political timber in its cart with a board of directors that included McDonald, a prominent local real estate attorney; Pasadena Chamber of Commerce President Paul Little; local developer Joel Bryant; Win-Win Workplace owner Gayle Shepherd; and physician Rita Kumar.

McDonald had naught but praise for the way the process has been set up and handled.

“Everything the City said it would do—to drill down on each application and find out as much as possible about each applicant—it did,” he observed, “and we felt that it was a very rigorous, but fair, process.”

Where, and in which district, the applicants will settle, has yet to be sorted out, and McDonald did not know what would happen in the rather likely case that two applicants vie for the same city council district, although he suggested that whoever submits their CUP application first might have the edge.

Coming in a close third in the application scoring sweepstakes (with a little more than a percentage point separating them from the top slot) was The Atrium Group, another cannabis seller with a high-end approach to retailing, which is in evidence at its Woodland Hills location.

In fifth place was Sweet Flower of Pasadena LLC, which has its corporate headquarters and a dispensary in Culver City and currently has two licenses in Los Angeles with more to be announced. The company describes itself as a “cannabis lifestyle brand committed to modernizing the cannabis customer experience.”

Its hallmarks, says Sweet Flower, are “unparalleled customer service, the highest quality, locally-sourced products, and retail environments distinguished by their design and inviting ambience.”

Another applicant, Harvest of Pasadena, based in Arizona, reportedly hopes to open 100 dispensaries in 14 states by next year. It currently has dispensaries in Venice, Palm Springs and Moreno Valley. Two other successful applicants were Tony Fong, and MME Pasadena Retail LLC. No information was available on those companies at publication time.

Six additional applications for testing laboratories or growing facilities were received by the City, but those names have not yet been released, according to Pasadena Public Information Officer Lisa Derderian.

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