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First City-Approved Cannabis Dispensary Opens

Varda doing business on East Colorado Boulevard

Published on Wednesday, December 16, 2020 | 1:34 pm

After a year-long process that led to lawsuits, finger-pointing and battles with nonconforming dispensary owners, the first city-approved cannabis dispensary opened this week. 

Varda opened its doors Monday on East Colorado Boulevard.

The dispensary will offer nearly 500 items in a 5,000-square foot retail area at 3341 E. Colorado Blvd.

“Varda’s commitment to community and quality were the driving forces in creating a customer-friendly neighborhood space,” according to a statement issued by the company. “Highly-trained, knowledgeable staff will educate both first-time and experienced consumers about the overall uses and benefits of cannabis products. Varda is committed  to not only being a responsible business that operates in full compliance of state and local regulations, but one that gives back to the community.” 

Owners Tony Fong and Leonard Wang are long-time San Gabriel Valley residents with deep roots in the region and the city of Pasadena, according to a statement by the company.

The pair also created the nonprofit New Discovery Foundation in order to directly help local communities.

The owners are seeking to offer a retail cannabis experience focused on creating a safe and welcoming environment where everyone from young professionals to older adults can learn about and purchase high-quality cannabis and related products. 

In June 2018, city voters passed Measure CC, allowing as many as six cannabis retailers to operate in the city, though not guaranteeing that many – hence the six companies that were allowed to apply for conditional use permits (CUPs) last June.

Varda received its CUP in July. The company was one of six cannabis companies chosen from a pool of 122 applicants in the city’s selection process.

Of the six companies, only two other dispensaries. Harvest of Pasadena and Integral Associates Dena, have received CUPs.

Atrium, Sweetflower and MedMen did not advance in the process for various reasons. 

Several months ago, the city launched a probe into the six applicants chosen to open retail stores after it was discovered that at least seven officials at MME Retail, also known as MedMen, had left the company, which led to a change of control.

In the approval process, applicants were scored on experience, cannabis industry knowledge, and ownership team criteria.

Cannabis operators were required to not make any material changes to the management team listed on the application. 

Varda, Integral, and Harvest were cleared in the investigation, but MedMen was kicked out of the city’s process.

Atrium filed for a CUP in District 3 but was denied because Harvest had already filed for a CUP in the council district, and Sweetflower was removed after the City Council determined owners turned in an incomplete application.

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