Planet 13 Enters California as State’s Largest Dispensary

Southern California residents have a new option for purchasing legal marijuana with the opening of the Planet 13 cannabis superstore in Santa Ana this week. The licensed dispensary, Planet 13’s third retail outlet and the first in the Golden State, opens its doors to customers 21 and older beginning on July 1.

“We are thrilled to be bringing our industry-leading retail experience to cannabis consumers in Southern California. The Planet 13 brand is synonymous with exceptional customer experience with a focus on extensive product selection, unique entertainment features, and world class customer service. Our Orange County SuperStore is designed to encompass all of the above,” Bob Groesbeck, co-CEO of Planet 13, said on June 24 in a press release from the company. “Orange County is home to 3 million people and has another 50 million visitors each year — making it a massive opportunity for consumer-focused cannabis brands. P13 OC is modelled after our extremely successful Las Vegas superstore, and with today’s announcement we look forward to offering consumers the Planet 13 retail experience, blended into the fabric of California.”

Although it takes its cues from the original Planet 13 location, the Santa Ana store is a California original. At the entryway to the new cannabis dispensary, a “hot-boxed” VW bus wafts artificial smoke, seemingly beckoning visitors inside for a quick selfie before the shopping commences. After a quick ID check, customers step across an interactive, digitally projected beach, leaving virtual footprints in the sand to be washed away by the next CGI wave. A shimmering waterfall, also a digital projection, parts over an archway that leads patrons to the retail salesfloor, which encompasses 16,500 square feet and displays wares from dozens of California licensed cannabis brands.

Future construction phases planned for the Planet 13 Santa Ana location will include cannabis memorabilia and ancillary retail sales areas, as well as a cannabis consumption lounge to be opened when local regulations permit the operation of such facilities. Cannabis product manufacturing facilities offering visitors a view of the production processes are also planned, according to Groesbeck. When complete, the entire facility is expected to boast a total footprint of 55,000 square feet, which Planet 13 is characterizing as California’s largest cannabis dispensary complex. The company is also billing the Santa Ana store as the world’s second-largest dispensary overall, placing behind the Planet 13 flagship location in Nevada, just minutes from the Las Vegas Strip.

Regulated Cannabis Brings Economic Opportunity

At an opening celebration for the media and cannabis industry VIPs held at the new dispensary last week, Santa Ana Mayor Vicente Sarmiento said that the regulated cannabis industry represents new economic opportunities for the city he serves, the only jurisdiction in Orange County to permit retail dispensaries so far. On Saturday, July 26, Santa Ana saw the opening of a new dispensary from Cookies, the multistate brand co-founded by rapper and cannabis mogul Berner. The neighboring city of Costa Mesa is expected to begin taking applications for cannabis retailers later this summer, according to media reports.

Groesbeck agreed with Sarmiento, telling Cannabis Now that tax revenue generated by the dispensary will help fund essential city services while providing hundreds of new jobs for the community.

“It’s going to provide money to go into the public coffers to distribute to parks, schools, libraries, whatever the case may be, but it also is a big job creator,” Groesbeck said in an interview. “We’re opening the doors here and I think we’re close to 225 or 250 employees to start. And that’s only going to increase as we start expanding. And these are good jobs. This isn’t minimum wage stuff. These are really solid jobs. I think our starting wage down here for hourly employees is 15 bucks.”

Left to Right: Larry Scheffler (Planet 13 Co-CEO); Vincente Sarmiento (Santa Ana Mayor); Charlotte Parker (party guest); Bob Groesbeck (Planet 13 Co-CEO).

Groesbeck added that the company was hiring for positions including “everything from the support services and facilities maintenance all the way up to GM’s, of course. And primarily, everyone is hired to provide a great customer experience: budtenders, support staff of the budtenders, the queueing folks to check people in, and everything that’s associated with providing a great customer service.”

Besides providing steady, good-paying jobs, Groesbeck said the Planet 13’s business philosophy encourages promotion from within, giving the company’s workers the opportunity to create an entire career for themselves.

“People that work hard, put the time in, and dedicate themselves to the company, the mission, and our customers –  they’re going to move up. One day someone will succeed me and Larry,” he said referring to Planet 13 co-CEO Larry Scheffler. “Somebody in this crowd could be the CEO. That’s what we want.”

Planet 13’s new California location in Santa Ana opens to the public on July 1, with a grand opening celebration kicking off at 10 a.m. PDT.

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Nevada Gives Green Light to Cannabis Consumption Lounges

Cannabis consumption lounges will be coming to Nevada next year under a bill signed into law by Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak earlier this month. The measure, Assembly Bill 341 (AB341), was signed by Sisolak on June 4 after being passed by lawmakers in both houses of the state legislature in May. Currently, onsite cannabis consumption is only allowed at the NuWu Cannabis Marketplace on Las Vegas Paiute tribal land north of downtown.

The legislation permits two types of cannabis businesses. Retail cannabis lounges will be operated by licensed marijuana dispensaries, while independent cannabis consumption lounges will not be connected to a retailer. Both types of businesses will sell ready-to-use or single-use cannabis products for onsite consumption by adults 21 and older. Live entertainment is permitted, but alcohol will not be allowed.

“You can think of it like a bar, except obviously there will be no alcohol,” Assemblyman Steve Yeager, the sponsor of the legislation, said during a Senate Finance Committee hearing, as quoted by Forbes. “It could be a joint, an edible, it could be an infused food or infused soda, whatever the concept might be.”

Yeager added that more original concepts would also likely arise, noting that ideas such as fine dining restaurants serving cannabis-infused dishes, cannabis-friendly yoga classes, and comedy clubs offering marijuana products could all become reality. 

“Whatever you could think of could be possible,” Yeager said.

Ben Kovler, the CEO and founder of multistate cannabis operator Green Thumb Industries, said that the company is planning a lounge for the dispensary opened on the Las Vegas Strip by GTI in May under a licensing deal with the founders of the brand Cookies, rapper Berner and his cultivation collaborator Jai.

“When people come to Vegas for a bachelor party, a wedding, or just to see friends they haven’t seen in 15 months, they’re going to want to get together and consume cannabis and pretty soon there will be consumption lounges and they’re going to want to come to Cookies,” Kovler said. “What better place than Las Vegas? It’s an experience city in the middle of the desert.”

Consumption Lounges And Social Equity

Nevada’s foray into cannabis consumption lounges will bring a measure of equity to the state’s efforts at marijuana policy reform. Before AB341, cannabis consumption was legal under state law only in private residences with the owner’s permission, leaving renters and visitors open to the disparate enforcement of drug laws that has been repeatedly documented. Consuming cannabis in hotels and casinos is not allowed.

“Consumption lounges are important because they help protect people from prejudicial law enforcement or being fined or sanctioned in a way that causes real harm, that perpetuates the War on Drugs,” cannabis and social equity advocate and Las Vegas resident Noel Gordon told Filter.

The legislation also has social equity provisions built into the licensing regulations for cannabis consumption lounges. Nevada’s legalization initiative, passed in 2016, is lacking in robust equity measures. Such oversights are likely to doom or delay legalization proposals today, a fact seen in recent and eventually successful reform efforts in New Jersey and New York.

Qualified social equity applicants who wish to open a cannabis consumption lounge will receive up to a 75% reduction in application fees, which can cost as much as $30,000. Under the bill, a social equity applicant is a person “who has been adversely affected by provisions of previous laws which criminalized activity relating to cannabis, including, without limitation, adverse effects on an owner, officer or board member of the applicant or on the geographic area in which the applicant will operate,” according to the legislation.

Additionally, the number of independent cannabis consumption lounge licenses will initially be capped at 20, with half reserved for social equity applicants. But despite the efforts, Gordon is uncertain the social equity provisions will work as intended.

“I’m not all that optimistic we will still deliver on the social equity pieces,” Gordon said. “We still live in a prohibition lite version of legalization here in Nevada whereby you can purchase and consume cannabis in your home, but short of that, if you were to consume it on the sidewalk, in a hotel room, at a friend’s place, you will still be subject to some kind of criminal penalty or sanction.”

AB341 goes into effect in October, and state regulators are expected to begin accepting applications for cannabis lounges in July. But with regulations still being drafted, it is likely to be next year before the first consumption clubs open.

“The Cannabis Compliance Board is continuing to review the bill and its requirements in establishing consumption lounge licenses in Nevada,” said Tiana Bohner, public information officer for the agency. “The Board will aim to promulgate regulations and begin issuing licenses by early 2022.”

Bob Groesbeck, the co-CEO for Planet 13, a 112,000-square-foot Las Vegas dispensary billed as the world’s largest, said that his company has been planning a cannabis lounge for the site since AB341 was introduced two years ago.

“Our SuperStore is one of the only dispensaries with the space on site and the proximity to the Las Vegas Strip to create a truly Vegas style club,” Groesbeck said in a statement from Planet 13. “As with the rest of our dispensary we look forward to setting the bar and showing the industry what is possible when your goal is to Out Vegas, Vegas.”

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