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Three Marijuana Retail Licenses Awarded. Who’s Still Alive.

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Three social equity retail applicants have been granted preliminary licenses. About 35 other "standard" applicant companies remain in the running. (GV Wire file)
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From a list of nearly 100, the number of businesses still in the running for 21 retail cannabis licenses in Fresno is now down to about 38.

The city of Fresno tentatively awarded its first three licenses last week for locations around the city. All three are social equity applicants, meaning they met certain social or income requirements.

The winners are Fresno Canna Co. (3257 W. Shaw Avenue #109; District 1); Traditional (6926 N. Weber Avenue; District 2); and Viola Fresno (755 Van Ness Avenue; District 3). Up to three more social equity applicants could be awarded licenses.

The remaining retail licenses will go to standard applicants. Last month, the city whittled down 75 standard retail applicants to 35 for the next phase — granting interviews.

All retail applicants still need to go through a conditional use permit process, where the council and public can weigh in on each potential applicant. Retail locations could open by December, based on city timelines.

In all, the city will grant 21 retail licenses, with at least three (and a maximum of six) coming from the social equity group. Each of the seven council districts will have three retail operations (either standard or social).

The Social Equity Winners

Viola Brands was founded by former NBA player Al Harrington. He named the company after his grandmother, who suffered from glaucoma, he told Forbes.

Harrington owns a 22% stake in the Fresno location, partnering with Fresnan Delanno Hopkins, who owns 51%.

The listed owners for Traditional are Maritza Estrada (51%) and Aaron Mamann (49%), both of Los Angeles.

Not much is known about Fresno Canna Co. Dispensary, the top ranking social equity applicant. No company with that name is listed in the city database. Its proposed location at a northwest Fresno shopping center still has a sign saying the space is for lease.

This northwest Fresno retail space could become Fresno Canna Co Dispensary. (GV Wire/David Taub)

Not all are happy about how the city ranked social equity applicants.

“I’m just shocked. I felt like we were done unfair because we have been, I feel, the most transparent of all companies that are trying to be like this in the city. We feel strongly that our practice and business model is perfect for the city,” said Cesar Casamayor with The People’s Dispensary. His group ranked 10th in the social equity category.

Casamayor said the process for picking the social equity applicants is vague. He said his group’s local status should have been taken into consideration.

“To not even be in the top five is very alarming and it just raises the questions because I’m also seeing that some of the companies that got the three are not even from our city,” Casamayor said.

Under the city rules, “a numerical score will not necessarily determine the results.” The final rankings did not include a score.

Potential licensees must meet eligibility — which includes the majority owner meeting low income standards and a prior cannabis-related conviction (which could also apply to a family member). They must also have a community benefits and investment plan.

The owner is not required to live in Fresno, although residency could lead to “bonus points” under city rules.

Familiar Names Remain in Standard Category

Several familiar names remain among the 35 standard applicants still in contention.

Kacey Auston, a Fresno business consultant, is partnering with various co-owners on applications for three separate locations. All three scored highest (83.5%) in their respective districts (2, 3, 4). That was also the highest score of any company.

Former Major League Baseball pitcher Matt Garza has two of his Authentic retail stores in the running in districts 1 and 4.

Three Culture Cannabis Club locations, owned in part by Barigye McCoy, are alive in districts 2, 5, and 6. But, his location at Golden State Boulevard in a former Starbucks location may be too close to a location just awarded to a social equity retailer.

Two noted Fresno developers are also in the running. Terance Frazier, with a 40% stake in Catalyst Downtown Fresno, garnered the second highest score for District 3 standard applicants. However, his company may also be out of the running because their location is too close to a social equity applicant.

Cliff Tutelian, with a 20% ownership piece of The Artist Tree, scored second for the District 2 locations.

Minimum Distance Apart: 800 Feet

By council rules, each cannabis retail location must be at least 800 feet away from another cannabis business. Based on mapping the remaining applicants, that rule will come into play.

Of the three social equity applicants preliminarily approved, one is too close to a standard applicant still in the running. Viola Fresno is approximately 750 feet from Catalyst. Both are in downtown Fresno, near Chukchansi Park.

Elliot Lewis, business partners with Frazier, had no comment on Catalyst’s next move.

Culture Cannabis Club in northwest Fresno is less than 800 feet from social equity winner Traditional.

In District 4, two retailers are in the same shopping center at the southwest corner of Shaw and Blackstone avenues — Authentic Fresno and Urban Leaf. Two more locations are at the northeast corner of the intersection.

5048 Blackstone OPCO, operating under the “Cookies” brand, is less than 700 feet as the crow flies from Authentic Fresno/Urbn Leaf, and approximately 550 feet from Haven XVI LLC.

That means, if Cookies is chosen, the other three locations are out. The proposed Haven and Authentic Fresno/Urbn Leaf locations are more than 1,000 lineal feet apart. Two of those three companies could exist under the rules.

If Cookies is chosen, that could mean District 4 would have less than three applicants. The fifth standard applicant, Infinity Assets, would be located at Shaw Avenue near Angus Street, far enough away from the crowded Blackstone/Shaw intersection.

Only one social equity candidate in District 4 ranked in the Top 17. Pure Fresno, LLC, however, is in the same shopping center as Authentic Fresno/Urbn Leaf and could face the same distance problems.

Scoring the Standard Applications

All the standard applicants were scored on a list of criteria as part of Phase II. The top five scores in each council district moved to the interview phase.

The city used five criteria in scoring applications, based on a maximum of 1,600 points. They include five areas — social policy and local enterprise plan (400 points); and business plan, neighborhood compatibility plan, safety plan, and security plan (300 points each).

The interview phase, Phase III, will be scored in seven areas for a maximum of 2,400 points. The top applicants who score at least 80% move to Phase IV, the city manager’s final determination.

Assistant City Manager Greg Barfield, Office of Cannabis Oversight manager Jennifer Ruiz and Mike Sanchez with the planning department will conduct the interviews.

Who Remains in the Running for Licenses

District 1

Name Address Score Primary ownership
“Lemonnade”

1261 Wishon OPCO, LLC

1264 North Wishon Blvd 83.81% Kacey Auston, 51%

Others: 49%

The Artist Tree 1426 N Van Ness Ave 82% Lawrence Artenian (Fresno), 51%
Authentic 559 LLC 4248 W Ashlan 81.06% Matthew Garza (Clovis), 51%
Crescent Conquest LLC 3759 W Shaw Ave Ste 101 78.06% Kyle James Wilkins (Clovis), 50%

Scott John Van Horn (Fresno), 50%

Catalyst Highway 99 2250 N Weber Ave 75.69% Elliot Lewis (Long Beach), 61%

District 2

Name Address Score Ownership
“Lemonnade”

7315 Blackstone OPCO

7315 N Blackstone 83.81% Kacey Auston (Fresno), 51%
The Artist Tree 7835 North Palm Ave, Ste 102 82% Lawrence Artenian (Fresno), 31%

Clifford Tutelian (Fresno), 20%

Embarc Fresno 1784 West Shaw Ave 75.69% Lauren Carpenter (Sacramento), 100%

Steven Hosey (Fresno), >1%

Culture Cannabis Club 6893 N Golden State Blvd 71.81% Barigye McCoy (Fresno), 49%
Token Farms 51 W Alluvial 67.94% Jennifer Mendonca (Visalia), 35%

District 3

Name Address Score Ownership
Haven #20 LLC 335 W Olive Ave 82.69% Saeed Ghanbari (Fresno), 51%
Catalyst Downtown Fresno 721 Broadway 79.75% Terance Frazier (Fresno), 40%
Public Cannabis (Fresno Verde Public Inc) 1220 E Olive Ave 78.06% Mushana McCoy (Fresno), 49%
West Coast Cannabis Club 10 E Olive Avenue, Fresno 74.88% Andrew Angulo (Huntington Beach), 80%
Fresh Farms 471-479 E Belmont 74.50% Thomas Wood (Squaw Valley), 51%

District 4

Name Address Score Ownership
“Cookies”

5048 Blackstone OPCO

5048 Blackstone Ave 83.81% Kacey Auston (Fresno), 51%
Haven XVI LLC 110 East Shaw Ave 83% Brittany Shiralian (Fresno), 51%
Authentic Fresno 4931 N Blackstone Ave 82.13% Matthew Garza (Clovis), 51%
Infinity Assets Fresno 618 E Shaw Ave 76.25% Scott Morse (Fresno), 26%

 

Nick Rendino (Fresno), 25%

Urbn Leaf 4931 N Blackstone Ave 73.56% Skip Motsenbocker (San Diego), 58%

District 5

Name Address Score Ownership
Element 7 Fresno LLC 4846 E Kings Canyon Rd 75.31% Robert DiVito (Livermore), 59%

15 others mostly local including JePahul White, 1%

Lee Ann Eager, 1%

Anthony Armour, 1%

Fresno Farms 3849 E Ventura St 72.88% Three from Colorado with 33.3% each
Culture Cannabis Club 2590 S Maple Ave, Ste 103-104 71.81% Barigye McCoy (Fresno), 49%
Yerba Wellness 4619 E Eugenia Ave 68.19% Vernon Jones (Fresno), 51%
Tradecraft Farms 3594 E. Ventura Ave 3594 E. Ventura Ave Barry Gene Walker (Los Angeles), 50%

District 6

Name Address Score Ownership
Authentic Fresno 6929 N Willow Ave, Ste 103-104 77.63% Tony Hugan (Walnut), 40%
Embarc Fresno 51 East Pinedale Ave 75.69% Lauren Carpenter (Sacramento), 100%

Steven Hosey (Fresno), >1%

Culture Cannabis Club 314 E Bullard 71.81% Barigye McCoy (Fresno), 49%
GBH Retail LLC 8070 N Cedar Ave 54.81% Fred Fagundes (Fresno), 30.6%

Lloyd Fagundes (Fresno), 30.6%

Perfect Union 45 E Minarets 54.50% David Michael Spradlin (Sacramento)

District 7

Name Address Score Ownership
Haven #1 LLC 1704 E Belmont Ave 83.19% Jeffrey Shepherd (Fresno), 51%
Crescent Cosmos LLC 1610 E Gettysburg Ave 78.06% Klye James Wilkins (Clovis), 50%

Scott John Van Horn (Fresno), 50%

Embarc Fresno 4592 North Blackstone Ave 75.69% Lauren Carpenter (Sacramento), 100%

Steven Hosey (Fresno), >1%

Sweet Flower Fresno 3150 E. Oliver Ave 74.50% Timothy Dodd (Calabassas), 50%

Michael Thomson (Malibu), 50%

Everything Cannabis 4595 E Kings Canyon Rd 71.69% Omar Mohammed Ali Alghazali (Fresno), 51%

 

David Taub has spent most of his career in journalism behind the scenes working as a TV assignment editor and radio producer. For more than a decade, he has worked in the Fresno market with such stops at KSEE-24, KMJ and Power Talk 96.7. Taub also worked the production and support side of some of TV sports biggest events including the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals and NASCAR to name a few. Taub graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email