Business · Hanford

Hanford opens door to adding another weed dispensary

After a lengthy delay, the City of Hanford is finally home to two fully open retail marijuana dispensaries for recreational uses.

Now, the south Valley city could be home to a third in the near future.

In quick succession, dispensaries HerbNJoy and Caliva opened their doors to customers in Kings County over the summer.

The path to getting legal weed wasn’t easy for Hanford.

After awarding a retail license to Caliva in Sept. 2019, the firm immediately launched delivery services as it faced mounting delays en route to opening their store’s doors in August – nearly two years later.

HerbNJoy, which won its license last July, only earned the opportunity to open its doors after another company – Harvest of Hanford – relinquished its license after failing to make any discernible progress to opening a shop.

Tuesday, Hanford City Council members discussed the possibility of expanding the cannabis industry in the city, with Hanford Police Chief Parker Sever soliciting feedback from lawmakers about the body’s appetite.

A draft ordinance prepared by Hanford officials called for an expansion of the number of retail licenses from two to three.

Hanford City Councilwoman Kalish Morrow pressed for an expansion to four licenses, an increase of two.

Sever said there was concern that a doubling of licenses didn’t necessarily translate to an equal boost in tax revenue for the city’s coffers, adding that new players are likely to cut into sales from the two current Hanford dispensaries.

“I don’t believe that this cuts into the pieces of the pie,” Morrow said of the worries of over-competition. “I think the pie is bigger than we think it is.”

Councilwoman Diane Sharp voiced opposition to an increase in pot shops, pointing to reports she heard that unsavory characters were loitering near shops with more frequency than before they opened.

Asked by Mayor Francisco Ramirez of any criminal issues relative to the two shops, Sever said that the biggest concern has centered around compliance with operational regulations.

One example used was that staff at dispensaries would leave stock rooms open – a common practice in normal retail operations but prohibited by Hanford’s cannabis ordinance.

Beyond that, he had little else to share about criminal impacts.

With the backing of Ramirez, Morrow, and Hanford Councilwoman Amanda Saltray, the license expansion is set to return to the City Council for formal consideration.

If approved, the process will differ slightly from the original process to award the city’s first two licenses, Sever noted.

Previously, Hanford Community Development Director Darlene Mata spearheaded the application process with consulting firm HdL Companies, a frequent collaborator with California municipalities on cannabis licensure procedures.

A future process would move forward without the outside consultant and reliant heavily on Hanford city officials to process and review applications.

Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at alex.tavlian@sjvsun.com.