Cannabis operators from as far away as Richland, Michigan, are looking to set up shop in downtown Santa Barbara. In fact, since the city set up a portal for prospective bidders on February 1, a majority of the 35 interested cannabis companies are from out of the area, including Seattle, Denver, and San Diego. Among the bidders are cleverly named entities such as Johnny Appleweeds, CannaBarbara, Sugar Leaf Wellness Collective, and 805 Buddha Bliss.
As California rolls out a legal cannabis market, some Southern California jurisdictions have been slow to establish permitting processes, which could be propelling prospective operators to Santa Barbara. Up to three retail shops will be permitted within city limits. Other businesses such as wholesale manufacturing and delivery services are also eligible to receive licenses in the city. Applications here are due March 30. They cost $5,600.
The legalization of cannabis comes at a time when downtown retail struggles as storefronts sit vacant. Cannabis could help fill the void, Mayor Cathy Murillo and others have said. But many landlords have indicated they might not lease to people involved in the cannabis industry if there is any kind of financing on the building.
What’s more, several cannabis operators complained at a recent city workshop that they could not find many available building spaces in the city’s new commercial cannabis zones. Cannabis businesses cannot be located within 600 feet of a school or youth center. That wipes out much of Milpas Street. (A medical marijuana dispensary, Canopy, has received permits but has been appealed numerous times by frustrated neighbors.) Cannabis shops will be prohibited from the Funk Zone because the California Coastal Commission has not approved the zoning change. According to city staff, the city has not set a date to update its coastal development plan with the commission.
After the application period closes at the end of the month, a group of city staff will review the applicants and award licenses based on merit. It could be fall 2018 or even next year before a cannabis retail business — from Santa Barbara or elsewhere — opens its doors.