Pasadena Application Process for Marijuana Retailers Aims at the High-End

Published : Tuesday, January 22, 2019 | 7:24 PM

Well-financed, luxury boutique marijuana retailers are likely to score well in Pasadena's application process, based on the City's criteria - stores like this one, for example. Shown above is the Atrium, located at 5441 Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Woodland Hills. Courtesy photo.

If the tone and tenor of its cannabis business application criteria are any measures, the City of Pasadena is looking for quality marijuana retailers.

The City’s scoring sheet for applicants emphasizes experience and knowledge about the cannabis industry and awards points for: “Overall quality and detail of proposed operating procedures; quality of proposed employee training; quality and detail of plans for educating customers about cannabis products; quality of contextual exterior design which reflect the best of the City’s architectural traditions, and the use of quality materials, to mention a few instances in which an operation’s quality will contribute to an applicant’s success.”

For cannabis chain retailer Atrium, which is planning to apply for a Pasadena permit, the regulatory filter is more beacon than obstacle.

Atrium, which operates this store in Woodland Hills, sees Pasadena as an ideal market and is planning to apply for a permit here. Courtesy photo.

A statement from the company reads in part: “Unlike anything of its kind, Atrium’s beautiful, light-filled space exclusively features top-shelf products displayed in crystal-cut glass vitrines atop polished marble counters to create a truly elevated shopping experience. Catering to discerning local clientele and canna-curious tourists alike, the high-end retail destination will feature a personal shopping service, a ‘cannabis concierge,’ who will guide shoppers through the best in class selection of California grown cannabis products.”

Chris Berman is Chief Operating Officer for SoCal Building Ventures, a holding company with assets across the entire supply chain of California-sourced cannabis, including the Atrium stores.

He told Pasadena Now in a Jan. 21 interview that he believes cannabis can be “aspirational,” a luxury good in the way other consumer brands are, and that Pasadena is an ideal showcase.

“Atrium is a model that only fits in certain demographics,” explained Berman. “It’s a higher-end store and we just think Pasadena is a great market for that. It’s a more affluent community. They’re not going to have too many different dispensaries there, with limited licensing, and we just feel like it’s a good place to roll out this particular model.”

After Measure CC was passed in June 2018, the City of Pasadena went to work developing the regulations and processes governing its implementation. Initial applications must be submitted by Jan. 31. The window opened Jan. 1.

Applicants are required to pay a $13,654 fee. The top six winners will get the go-ahead in April when a $10,639 processing fee will be applied to help offset the costs of implementation to the City.

Berman said that completing the application process has been taking up the bulk of his time over the past month.

David Reyes, director, Planning and Community Development Department, City of Pasadena, said the online application process has not generated any complaints to date.

“I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily more difficult than some of the other cities we’ve looked at,” said Berman. “It is merit based so I think those in general require a little bit more effort. Just due to the fact that Pasadena is such a desirable location, we do anticipate substantial competition.”

Allison Margolin, a partner in the Beverly Hills-based “marijuana law firm” of Margolin and Lawrence said in a Jan. 22 interview that Pasadena’s ordinance is “in line” with those of other municipalities.

She said the firm is representing applicants to the Pasadena process and is dealing with about 25 pages worth of diagrams and charts related to how things are going to look.

“With the small cities like Pasadena,” she explained, “the competition is not just about the substance, but also about the aesthetic.”

The application game, she added, has changed since the days of medical marijuana dispensaries. “There wasn’t the kind of competition like your seeing now,” said Margolin. “It was really about not being seen versus being seen. So now there are different incentives.”

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