Business

High Desert’s first legal marijuana dispensaries are coming soon

San Bernardino County residents looking to buy medical marijuana from a legal shop soon could have some options.

City officials in Adelanto, off the 15 freeway near Victorville, have given the green light to four marijuana dispensaries. The first is expected to open in about a month.

Two years ago, Adelanto became one of the first cities in Southern California to embrace the medical marijuana industry, approving cultivation of the plant for medical purposes. Since then, the city has passed ordinances that allow manufacturing, distribution and testing of medical cannabis.

Jet Room, which was a restaurant frequented by service members in Adelanto, is being turned into what should be the High Desert’s first legal medical marijuana shop. (Courtesy of Manny Serrano)

Those moves have helped to turn around Adelanto’s financial picture. Marijuana companies are developing more than 1 million square feet of industrial space in town, and fees connected to those businesses, along with a 5 percent tax, recently helped the city pass its first balanced budget in nearly a decade.

Council members also voted in May to make Adelanto the first city in the High Desert — and one of just a few in San Bernardino County — to approve cannabis dispensaries. City Manager Gabriel Elliott said Adelanto, for now, is only planning to allow medical shops even when the state begins licensing sales for all adults 21 and older in January. There is no plan to allow retail sales of recreational cannabis.

The council approved one dispensary for every 8,500 residents in two designated city zones. Since Adelanto has a population of around 33,000, up to four dispensaries can now legally set up shop.

Adelanto started accepting applications from would-be dispensary owners over the summer and city officials formed a committee to select the top four candidates. But only four valid applications were submitted by the Sept. 14 deadline. All four met the city’s minimum standards, so the applicants were all granted licenses in early October.

“It’s like the final chapter to a long haul, after three years of solid work,” said Councilman John “Bug” Woodard, who has long championed bringing the marijuana industry to town.

Councilman John “Bug” Woodard championed bringing medical marijuana to Adelanto. (File photo by Bill Alkofer, The Cannifornian/SCNG)

Three of the dispensary permits went to folks with ties to companies that are already licensed to grow and manufacture cannabis products in Adelanto.

“It’s full circle, from seed to the store, and it never leaves the city,” Woodard said.

Brothers Manny and David Serrano have ownership in an Adelanto cultivation and manufacturing facility. Manny Serrano said it should be growing flower and making the La India line of concentrates and edibles by the end of November. The brothers have also secured a permit to open a dispensary inside the old Jet Room, a bar and restaurant that catered to service members until it folded shortly after George Air Force Base was shuttered in 1992.

Manny Serrano, who also owns Edibles Arrangements in Victorville, said they’ve spent $700,000 transforming the building into something that he believes looks more like a jewelry store than a pot shop.

A historic mural is framed in Jet Room, a restaurant-turned cannabis dispensary that should be the first legal shop to open in the High Desert. (Courtesy of Manny Serrano)

As a nod to the property’s past, they’ve kept the name and framed a large mural of a stagecoach that they salvaged from the restaurant, he said. The goal is to open in mid-November.

The second dispensary to open, Woodard said, could be one owned by HDO Enterprises, which is an offshoot of home builder Frontier Enterprises.

The company also broke ground in February on what will be Adelanto’s largest industrial park, a 30-acre gated complex aimed at the marijuana industry. The complex will be divided into 21 units, each with up to 22,000 square feet devoted to cultivation, plus room for manufacturing and testing. Those units are now up for sale.

Company officials declined multiple requests to discuss its dispensary project.

The third dispensary license went to Lifestyle Delivery System, a Vancouver company that’s publicly traded on the Canadian Securities Exchange.

The company just finished retrofitting a vacant, 20,000-square-foot warehouse. Company President Jim Pakulis said they will grow organic cannabis and use it to make up to 500,000 units a day of a product they plan to market as CannaStrips.

The strips dissolve under the tongue and delivers fixed doses of THC (the compound in cannabis that makes people high) and CBD (the compound thought to have the most medical benefits). Pakulis — an Orange County resident who helped take Weedmaps public in 2010 — said CannaStrips have been in the works for two years, with the first products now hopefully set to come out of Adelanto in late October.

In addition to that warehouse, Pakulis said Lifestyle Delivery System recently bought an adjacent 24.5-acre parcel. It plans to build 10 units of 20,000 square feet each for lease to individual cultivators, then use an undisclosed portion of that acreage for the company’s first dispensary.

“Our chain of thought was, if we’re going to do everything else, we might as well benefit from the end product and open a store,” he said.

Pakulis said he can’t yet discuss the name or design for that shop, which will be built from the ground up. But he said it should open in the first half of 2018, carrying locally grown flower, concentrates made in Adelanto, third-party products and, of course, CannaStrips.

The final dispensary license went to a San Francisco-based corporation run by John Delaplane and Quentin Platt, who are leading a medical marijuana startup called Equinox Botanicals. The men couldn’t be reached by press time. But a LinkedIn page for Delaplane, who also runs a Bay Area dog walking business, says Equinox Botanicals aims to develop a “diverse portfolio of medical cannabis companies,” with an initial focus on dispensaries.

Since none of the surrounding cities permit cannabis shops, Woodard — fresh from attending a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday for a Chinese company that’s bringing an extraction and research facility to town — said he’s looking forward to Adelanto collecting tax revenue from shoppers throughout the High Desert and beyond.

The only city in San Bernardino County with legal dispensaries now open is Needles, which is some three hours away on the border of Nevada near Laughlin.

Voters in the city of San Bernardino approved allowing medical marijuana shops in November 2016. City officials issued the first license Aug. 24 to the owners of Flesh Showgirls. But so far, the property remains strictly a strip club, with appeals and legal challenges stalling the market.

Until Adelanto’s dispensaries open, Inland Empire residents can find the closest legal cannabis shops in Perris, the Coachella Valley and Santa Ana.


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