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A Garza Double: Former Big Leaguer Awarded Two Cannabis Licenses

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Former Fresno State and MLB standout Matt Garza was awarded two cannabis licenses on Friday. (GV Wire File)
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Matt Garza hit only three doubles in his Major League Baseball career. But his latest double could yield him millions.

The city of Fresno awarded four new marijuana retail licenses, with two in the social equity applicant category.

Garza, the former Fresno State pitching standout and ALCS MVP for the Tampa Bay Rays, scored one of each.

“I’m just going to enjoy this moment. I’ve been patient. . . . We’ll see how it goes. We’ll open as soon as we can and we’re looking forward to helping this city and community,” Garza said.

Licenses Opened After Appeal Hearing

The licenses became available when the city council revoked four licenses during an appeals hearing on Oct. 27. That left city manager Thomas Esqueda to pick new license winners.

Preliminary approvals were awarded to Authentic 559, Embarc Fresno, and social equity applicants High Speed Healing, and Beyond Rooted.

The city limits three retail shops in each of the seven council districts. The new district lines were just completed in the redistricting process.

Any city councilmember or the mayor can challenge the new award winners within 30 days.

All licensees still have to go through the city’s conditional use permit process. Of the 21 licensees, only one shop has even had a hearing.

Garza Now Pitching Pot

Authentic 559 (4248 W. Ashlan Ave.) won the available District 1 (west Fresno and Tower District) license after the city council rejected The Artist Tree’s preliminary approval.

Garza is listed as the 51% owner. He is partnering with the Shryne Group.

One of Authentic’s partners, Brian Mitchell, is Shryne’s former CEO. He resigned in September after being charged with workers’ compensation fraud in Alameda County stemming from his time as CEO of another company.

Authentic finished third in scoring among five standard applicant retail shops that made it to the Phase III interview round.

Embarc Embarks on Fresno Location

Embarc (1784 W. Shaw Ave.) won the available license in District 2 (northwest Fresno), replacing Cookies. The latter’s permit was rejected by the city council because it was too close to Pinedale Elementary School.

Embarc operates three other cannabis outlets in northern California.

“It’s a huge market that has been underserved for cannabis retail for so long,” Embarc CEO Lauren Carpenter said of the Fresno market. She hopes to open in 2022.

It is the second applicant with an MLB connection. Former San Francisco Giant Steve Hosey will serve on Embarc’s community advisory board that decides how to spend philanthropic money in the community.

Located at the northeast corner of Shaw and West avenues, Embarc is in the same shopping center with several restaurants including Angry Chickz and across the street from Taco Bell.

“A savvy cannabis operator looks for opportunities to co-market with other businesses, local businesses, and so we’re looking forward to rolling up our sleeves and really finding those opportunities here,” Carpenter said.

In its application, Embarc touted the support of Fresno Chamber of Commerce CEO Scott Miller, and Fresno Unified School Trustee Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas.

Jonasson Rosas is also on Embarc’s community advisory board.  She is the wife of Fresno councilman Luis Chavez.

The Artist Tree, which also applied and received a license in District 2, might be the furthest along of the 21 preliminary licensees. It received an affirmative vote from the district Project Review Committee for its conditional use permit at Palm and Nees avenues.

During its November hearing, owners of The Artist Tree vowed to place security measures such as bollards in front of the display window to prevent smash and grab type robberies. The city planning commission and city council will also have to review the CUP.

Two Social Equity Applicants in District 3

To fill the two available licenses in District 3 (southwest Fresno and downtown), the city chose two social equity applicants.

Social equity applicants have different qualification standards than standard applicants, including prior marijuana-related convictions, or living in a economic or environmentally disadvantaged neighborhood.

Beyond Rooted (505-507 N. Fulton, northwest corner with Belmont Avenue) will be operated by Nathan Perez, Isaac Fonseca, and Matt Garza.

Garza holds a minority 19% share in Beyond Rooted. He is Fonseca’s cousin.

High Speed Healing (1142 F St., between Fresno and Mariposa streets) will be owned by Tyrone Carter and Renatta Carter-Ford.

The High Speed Healing application lists Carter-Ford active with the NAACP and Chinatown Fresno Foundation. Tyrone Ford previously worked on a cannabis farm in Woodland, the application says.

The two social equity applicants replace Haven #20 and Public Cannabis — two Tower District-area shops. The city has now awarded six of the 21 available retail applications to social equity groups, the maximum allowed by city statute.

Fresno is facing at least four lawsuits based on the process for picking license recipients. Only one has received a preliminary hearing in front of a judge, with no decision rendered.

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

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