Cannabis shops open in Ventura: here’s who was chosen

After a selection process that began with 26 applicants, four cannabis stores — three retail and one distribution — were approved to open in Ventura.

Ventura City manager Alex McIntyre selected the facilities based on location, safety and potential success.

McIntyre said he wanted to “ensure that anyone who was issued a permit would be successful.”

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The approved retailers are:

  • Responsible and Compliant Retail Ventura, 1890 E. Main St.
  • TAT Ventura, 2835 E. Main St.
  • Zasa LLC., 4591 Marktstr.

Ventura’s Finest, located at 3037 Golf Course Drive, which also received a permit, was the sole distribution applicant. The distribution business will not have a retail component.

The four companies were selected from 26 applicants, which were later reduced to nine finalists. City officials announced the final selection in a press release on Friday.

Operations must follow operational guidelines established by the city. All cannabis dealers are required to verify IDs and ensure customers are at least 21 years of age or, for medical patients, are at least 18 years of age. There will be regular inspections, audits and surveillance by city officials, the Ventura Police Department and state regulators. Permits are renewed annually and can be revoked if a company fails to comply with the rules.

A 10-day appeal period began Monday for the unselected applicants. After the appeal period has passed, the city will work with the companies on safety, odor control and other issues.

A cannabis institution could open in six months at the earliest, depending on the timeline for improvements or supply chain issues, McIntyre said.

“In some places it could be a dramatic transformation that could take longer,” he said.

McIntyre said he did not consult with anyone before making his decision because he did not want additional votes in the process. He made his selection by reviewing interviews with applicants conducted by Parks and Recreation Director Nancy O’Connor, Ventura Police Commissioner Darin Schindler, and Community Development Director Peter Gilli.

He also toured the sites on his own to better understand them and deal with parking and security issues.

Companies that did not make the cut can apply again at a later date. Officials could issue two more permits for the city’s coastal zone, which includes downtown. The city is awaiting more information from the California Coastal Commission about those permits, McIntyre said.

Before finalizing selection, the city ranked each of the nine finalists. The rankings were based on ownership, community benefits, investment plans, neighborhood compatibility, and proposed locations. Facilities must be at least 600 feet from an elementary, middle or high school.

Zasa LLC, planned for an 8,400-square-foot building that was formerly a Financial Partners Credit Union, topped the list. Zahur Lalji, CEO of Zasa Inc., which owns Wheelhouse in Port Hueneme, said he bought the building for $2.1 million.

Lalji said he learned on Friday that his company had been selected.

“When we saw that we score at the top and are in first place, we were very surprised,” said Lalji, “but happy and nervous at the same time.”

The store will offer everything from clothing and glassware to cannabis flower and edibles. Lalji expects to open doors and employ more than 20 people in six to nine months.

“I have a ready team,” said Lalji. The old bank building has “built in all the security features for a cash-based business,” he said.

The city employed a consultant, Hinderliter, de Llamas & Associates of Brea, to select the finalists. As of July, the company had raised more than $114,000, said Yesania Anderson, a Ventura management analyst in community development.

The city estimates that cannabis businesses are expected to generate between $600,000 and $700,000 to fund city services in their first full year of operation.

Ventura voters approved a ballot measure to tax cannabis in the city in November 2020. The City Council passed ordinances in February 2021 to allow commercial cannabis operations in Ventura.

Wes Woods II covers West County for the Ventura County Star. Reach him at [email protected], 805-437-0262 or @JournoWes.


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