POT LUCK: Cannabis businesses learn fate in lottery

EL CENTRO — A public lottery by the County Planning and Development Services Department on Friday morning awarded 11 different commercial cannabis activity licenses.

The 11 successful applicants will be able to proceed in the process at the state level to finalize the acquisition of the necessary license to operate in California and Imperial County.

The lottery process is intended to give approved applicants an equal opportunity to secure a spot in the process to acquire the requested licenses. In order to take part in the lottery process, an application needed to be found to be complete and consistent with county and state regulations pertaining to zoning, site control and financial ability.

The biggest winner of the lottery was Movocan a locally based cannabis enterprise that secured the right to pursue the lone physical medicinal cannabis dispensary allowed in the county, while also securing a spot to continue in the process of virtual retail.

Movocan also has an opportunity to pursue wholesale distribution due to another company, Imperial Gold LLC, agreeing to transfer one of the two spots it was awarded in the lottery.

A Movocan representative told the Imperial Valley Press he was pleased with the agreement, observing the cannabis industry is one of the very few remaining businesses in which a handshake deal still matters.

“(Securing spots for all three license operations) will allow us to integrate vertically to be able to be a long-term cannabis industry player,” the Movocan representative said. “Our primary goal is to have a sustainable business locally first. We want to have it right locally before we expand to the state level.”

In the applications it submitted to the county, Movocan intends to operate in the Seeley area.

Director of the County Planning and Development Services Department Jim Minnick said Movocan and Imperial Gold are two of the applicants that will have to go through an additional step of securing a conditional use permit due to being located outside the industrial zone the county preferred.

Some of the applicants, like Imperial Gold, were able to submit multiple applications. Minnick said that was allowed as long as the applicant’s listed different addresses and processed each application separately.

After the lottery concluded, Minnick said the unsuccessful applications would be closed and any unused funds would be reimbursed.

In the case that any of the winning applicants do not complete the process, the county will reopen the application process to award any spot that opens up, but it won’t have a waiting list in place.

The five companies that will move forward in the process for wholesale distribution are Gateway Distribution, Imperial Gold LLC, Movocan, Southwest Releaf LLC and Moulton Holdings Inc.

The five successful applicants in virtual retail are Gateway Delivery, Valley Green Rush Inc. Green Rush Delivery, Paragon West LLC and Movocan.

Last fall, the Board of Supervisors approved issuing up to five licenses for virtual retail of cannabis with delivery service, up to five licenses for wholesale distribution operations and a single physical medicinal establishment with a delivery operation.

During the submission period, the county had received six applications for wholesale distribution, seven for virtual retail and 10 applications for the lone medicinal facility the county intends to permit.

In addition to those 23 applications, the county has also received a single application for cultivation and two for manufacturing.

Friday’s lottery was the third in a three-step procedure the county approved in December for cannabis developers to follow in order to acquire the necessary license or licenses to operate within unincorporated areas of the county.

Under the newly established process, the first step was to submit an application for a Commercial Cannabis Activity license. The application was reviewed and for those in compliance, authorization letters were sent confirming they could initiate the process to acquire a state license.

The second step was to obtain any additional permits necessary prior to being granted a cannabis license. These would include any agricultural, building or required permits.

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