VISTA — Going green has taken on a new meaning.
About three weeks ago, the first two legal medicinal marijuana dispensaries opened in Vista, also becoming the first such legal shops in North County.
FloraVerde, 954 S. Santa Fe Ave., and Tradecraft Farms Vista, 732 E. Vista Way, opened within days of each marking a milestone for the city after the passage of Measure Z in 2018. The ballot item legalized medicinal marijuana after the City Council voted to ban marijuana sales and uses after the passage of Proposition 64 in 2016, which legalized recreational marijuana.
Measure Z allows for up to 11 dispensaries within city limits, and the city was able to balance its budget thanks to the tax revenue estimations from the dispensaries.
“Being a serial entrepreneur, I jumped in to see what the opportunity is,” Christman said. “You want to take advantage of being an early mover and being one of the first ones because we are competing against some big corporations.”
He said being one of the first to open is an advantage to secure a consistent client base along with branding and awareness. Christman said the dispensaries also give Vista an edge as they are the first in North County to open, thus having access to thousands of patients who don’t want to drive to San Diego or other areas.
At his shop, Christman has a range of products including flower, CBD, edibles, vape cartridges, wax, dabs and pre-rolled joints.
As for business, though, it has been slow as a result of the medicinal component, he added. Christman said because of the black market, it has been a struggle to inform residents of the law.
However, sales doubled in the second week of operation, he said, noting the shop is trending upward. Another challenge, though, he said is taxes, where his effective rate is 70%, thus making it a difficult industry to turn a profit.
After Measure Z passed, the city was flooded with applications and some confusion over the process of selecting the 11 applications.
Tradecraft Farms, i.e., the Manuel Migueles Collective, sued the city of Vista earlier this year protesting the city’s selection process, according to a story in The Coast News. When the application process opened in January, business owners or representatives waited in line to submit applications and figured it was the order of who would be selected.
Instead, and prior to the application process being opened, the city announced it would be a random drawing. Regardless of the suit, the city ruled out enough applicants for Tradecraft Farms to make the top 11.
A message left with Tradecraft Farms was not returned.
As for the city, Kathy Valdez, the city clerk, said the application process has been relatively smooth. There was an issue with Live Scan, which requires the dispensaries to digitally fingerprint employees, but the businesses were not allowed access to the results, and the city was not allowed to share with a third party, even though the dispensaries are required to have on file, creating a Catch-22, Christman said.
“I called the city and said this is the scenario,” he said. “Kath Valdez … she’s been fantastic throughout all this, called an emergency meeting to get through all this.”
Valdez said the city worked with the owners to find a solution and to allow them to be in compliance with the law.
Also, she said several other dispensaries are scheduled to open before the end of the year.
“Several others are in the process,” Valdez said. “So far, we haven’t had any problem and are working with folks the best we can and not trying to hold anybody up.”
In addition, dispensary owners are required to obtain state and business licenses, certification of occupancy and make improvements to their buildings, Valdez said. Christman said there are specific security requirements each shop must meet as well.