City approves applicants for commercial cannabis business permits

The three retail businesses that have been conditionally awarded permits are Responsible and Compliant Retail Ventura, located at 1890 East Main Street; TAT Ventura, located at 2835 E Main Street; and ZASA, located at 4591 Market Street. The only industrial applicant in the process has been awarded to Ventura’s Finest, located at 3037 Golf Course Drive.

“The City embarked on an extensive evaluation process that included feedback from an outside consulting group, staff, and community members. All applications were carefully reviewed to allow for responsible commercial business operations in our community,” said City Manager Alex D. McIntyre. “This is an extremely regulated area. These businesses were selected because they provided thorough neighborhood compatibility, security, and safety plans. They also demonstrated a strong desire to be responsible partners that would invest in community groups and local organizations.”

Cannabis retail permits will not be awarded until after the appeal process. Applicants have 10 calendar days to file an appeal. Any applicant not selected for this application period may apply during the next application period, which has not yet been set.

In November 2020, voters approved a ballot measure for the taxation of cannabis in the City of Ventura. City Council approved an ordinance on February 24, 2021, and authorized the City Manager to initially grant up to five retail storefront or non-storefront cannabis permits and 10 industrial permits.

Appeal hearings will likely start the first week of February, but officials are still reaching out to the appellants for scheduling, said Christopher de la Vega, assistant city attorney. They will take place in front of a hearing officer and likely won’t take longer than a day, he said.

Five appeals were filed with the City regarding the commercial cannabis business permit selections. The city is still in the process of scheduling the appeal hearings. They will be decided by a neutral third-party .”Depending on the outcome of the hearings, finalists could be asked to go through the application process again, effectively starting over,” de la Vega said.

‘I think it’s going to be difficult to do anything other than speculate at this point until we know how the appeals go and what the results are,’ de la Vega said. ‘There are a lot of moving pieces.’

Some applicants have been baffled by the city’s process. Salzer’s Records co-owner Brandon Salzer, who partnered with Safeport Dispensary in Port Hueneme to open a potential business at the Salzer’s Video building at 5801 Valentine Road, was not selected and has filed an appeal.

“I think everyone is somewhat confused,” Salzer said. ‘What’s been frustrating about the entire process is there’s never been an opportunity just to discuss our proposal with anyone in the city. I feel we have the best physical location of all the companies involved.”

“The process is taking so long that Ventura is losing potential tax revenue to cities that have approved cannabis dispensaries such as Port Hueneme, Ojai, Thousand Oaks and, most recently, Oxnard,” Salzer said.

Zahur Lalji, CEO of Zasa Inc., which owns Wheelhouse in Port Hueneme, was selected for a permit in Ventura. He is waiting for the appeals process to wrap up and wants to open as soon as possible.

“I just think the city should let the winners move forward,” Lalji said.

“If all appeals are denied and the city’s selection stands, no City Council action would be necessary,” de la Vega said.

“If a decision is made in favor of one of the applicants, that’s a whole different ballgame,” he said.

Cannabis businesses are expected to generate between $600,000 to $700,000 to fund city services in the first full year of operation, according to city estimates.

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