Months after Fresno City Council members dramatically rejected three proposed cannabis dispensaries in an appeal hearing, they returned for another sit-down. This time, two of three replacement candidates survived.
The lone loser on the day? Social equity applicant High Speed Healing, slated for a location in Fresno’s woebegone Chinatown.
The council held public hearings for High Speed Healing, Authentic 559 and Beyond Rooted 559, all of which were granted preliminary approval from the City Manager’s office after four other dispensaries were stripped of approval on appeal last year.
Councilman Miguel Arias appealed High Speed Healing – which was set to be located at 1142 F St. in downtown – due to the lack of support from residents in the surrounding Chinatown area.
“What we don’t have for this particular item is any letters of support from residents who live nearby in the Chinatown area, which gives me some grave concern,” Arias said. “I’ve been crystal clear from my perspective that I’m going to hear from the neighbors, listen to the neighbors.”
Although High Speed Healing owner Renatta Carter-Ford noted that there are no residential buildings within the immediate area surrounding the proposed location, Arias also took issue with the fact that the dispensary would be located directly across the street from a new housing project.
The Monarch is set to open up this spring at 1101 F St. It is a $40 million affordable housing project led by Fresno’s Housing Authority that will have 57 affordable housing units as well as about 4,700 square feet of mixed-use commercial space.
Another point of contention for High Speed Healing and Arias is the city bus stop located on the proposed site. Arias voiced his concerns about having children living in the new housing development using the bus stop be so close to the pot shop.
“I know your application is strong. Your character is definitely strong,” Arias said. As local property and business owners, I can appreciate what you guys have done, but ultimately I have to look at location and whether the location makes sense for residents who either live in that area or in this case are about to move in in a few months into that housing project.”
Councilman Garry Bredefeld moved to approve High Speed Healing’s license, but the council denied it on a 1-4 vote. Council members Esmeralda Soria and Luis Chavez were absent for the vote.
While High Speed Healing left Wednesday’s hearing on the outs, Authentic 559 and Beyond Rooted 559 were able to move forward victorious.
Soria appealed Authentic 559’s license to allow for the public to provide input for the proposed dispensary at 4248 W. Ashlan Ave.
She said there had been very little opposition to the dispensary from the surrounding public, alleviating any concerns she may have had about the location.
She touched on issues regarding the qualification of Authentic’s application, noting reports of fraud charges against the former CEO of the dispensary’s parent company, Shryne Group.
Fresno City Attorney Doug Sloan said that the application was duly qualified as the exit of the former chief executive, Bryan Mitchell, was not considered an ownership change, an action prohibited under Fresno’s municipal code.
Unmentioned by Soria and Sloan were reports that another co-owner of the dispensary, Tony Huang, was cited by the City of Pasadena’s Code Enforcement Division for owning a property that housed an illegal dispensary.
Disclosure of citations is a part of Fresno’s application process. In its application, Authentic denied any such administrative actions against its ownership group.
The council unanimously approved Authentic 559’s license.
Beyond Rooted 559 was appealed by Arias, but in the hearing he noted the vast support from nearby residents to the proposed location at 505 N. Fulton Ave. who wrote letters to the city.
A major reason for Arias’ appeal dealt with Beyond Rooted 559’s proposed “Needles for Joints” program, which would allow people to exchange their drug needles for marijuana in an effort to help curb addictions as part of a program with a health care provider.
“The last thing I want is to hear from neighbors that you have a waiting line of homeless residents trying to get a free joint because of some misunderstanding of a program that they don’t fully grasp is not as simple as ‘give me your needle and I’ll give you a free joint,’” Arias said. “This description doesn’t do it justice.”
Beyond Rooted 559 agreed to scrap the Joints for Needles program in the wake of Arias’ concerns.
The council approved Beyond Rooted 559’s license by a 4-0 vote, with Bredefeld, Soria and Councilman Mike Karbassi absent.
Cannabis reset on the horizon
With Wednesday’s appeals resulting in one more license for the city to award in the future, City Manager Georganne White said the city is pressing the reset button on the whole process.
White said the city’s cannabis department will meet with the council cannabis subcommittee to address concerns regarding the city’s cannabis ordinance before moving forward with awarding more licenses.
Businesses that did not receive a license from the city will be allowed to reapply as the process restarts.