The operator of Fresno’s newest dispensary and another scheduled to open in the Tower District early next year has ties to the hip-hop community.
Retail cannabis company TRP will open its dispensary under the Cookies brand in Fresno on Sunday, making it the city’s fourth legal cannabis store. Cutting the ribbon will be San Francisco hip-hop artist Berner. The store is at 5048 N. Blackstone Ave.
And, in the first quarter of next year, TRP looks to open its second location, this time in the Tower District in the former Bank of America building at 1264 N. Wishon Blvd. That dispensary will operate under the Dr. Greenthumb brand owned by rapper B-Real of Cypress Hill.
Daniel Firtel, president and co-founder of TRP confirmed to GV Wire that B-Real would be present to cut the ribbon on the Tower District dispensary.
“It’s how it happened, it was not by design, but those are the two retail brands we operate under,” said Firtel.
‘Cookies’ Has Clout in the Cannabis World
Berner founded the Cookies brand in 2010. With 60 sixty locations in six countries, the Cookies name can be seen on all sorts of apparel — cannabis-related or not.
It was named one of America’s hottest brands in 2021 by marketing company AdAge.
Firtel said Cookie already had its first camper this week waiting for the opening. But, because of city regulations, employees had to send the person away.
Fresno resident Kacey Auston is a partner in the project.
“Partnering with TRP to launch Cookies Fresno is a proud moment for me,” Auston said in a news release. “As a native Fresnan, it’s a dream to bring the renowned Cookies brand to my hometown in a way that creates jobs and gives back culturally and economically to the community that’s shaped me.”
Dispensary Three Years in the Making
TRP owns and operates one-third of the Cookies stores in the United States and has exclusive licensing agreements in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, Firtel said.
TRP found the location at the northeast corner of Blackstone and Shaw avenues three years ago.
Firtel said Cookies could have opened a year ago but opening other stores as well as the local regulatory process held them up.
Opening a dispensary can take one-to-two years in some states. In states like Massachusetts, the process can take four years, he said.
“Unfortunately, it makes it challenging having to hold these properties for so long and spending all the money on fees and everything,” Firtel said.
TRP got the building permit for its Tower District location last month. Demolition work there is underway.
A Decade Before Legal Market Overtakes Underground Market?
Legislators and cannabis industry advocates speak often how the illegal cannabis market is bigger than the legal one. High taxes, stiff state regulations, and the federal government’s classification of cannabis as an illegal Schedule 1 substance — alongside drugs such as heroin — are obstacles for legal entrepreneurs.
The industry’s goal is for cannabis to be classified as a Schedule III substance. This would allow businesses to deduct legitimate expenses on their IRS filings and make it easier to access the banking system.
Firtel thinks it could be a decade before the legal market overtakes the illegal one.
“You don’t really hear about people buying bootleg liquor anymore,” said Firtel. “It’s just one of those things that time is going to help that. I think that having safe and tested products in stores and safe access for medical purposes and also recreational purposes is really the most important factor.”
Three Dispensaries Within a Mile of Each Other
The Cookies store will be less than a half-mile from Fresno’s other most recently opened dispensary. At the end of November, The Station quietly opened at 618 E. Shaw Ave., in the former Valley First Credit Union building.
A mile away at Fresno and Bullard avenues, the sign for Culture Cannabis Club has gone up. Calls and emails made to their liaison were not returned.