After a long and winding road, Caliva finally opened its Hanford storefront dispensary on August 1. Their official ribbon cutting on August 13 where officials from State Senator Mellissa Hurtado’s office, Representative David Valadao and Hanford Mayor Francisco Ramirez were in attendance to welcome Caliva’s long awaited opening.
“We are thrilled with the location and down town fits the deli vibe,” said Stacie Green, spokesperson for the San Jose-based company.
Passers-by were initially confused by the signage outside the store, thinking an actual deli had moved into the former Serrano’s furniture store.
And upon entering the store, the deli theme is throughout — with a “Fresh cuts daily” sign in neon and cherry red furniture reminiscent of a 1950’s neighborhood deli.
There are two additional DELI by Caliva locations located throughout the state.
Caliva’s Hanford location joins pot dispensary HerbNJoy, which opened down the block on May 19. Though almost neighbors HerbNJoy and Caliva offer two distinct product lines and have benefited from being so close.
Deli by Caliva is the Parent Company’s brand. Their Hanford store carries other in house lines such as MONOGRAM (Shawn ‘JAY-Z’ Carter’s cannabis line) and third-party products.
HerbNJoy does not have an in-house brand and carries a wide variety of other companies’ product lines.
Caliva is located at 104 N Douty and HerbNJoy is located at 102 N Douty. Both are open from 9am – 9pm every day and offer delivery in Kings and Fresno Counties.
A long time coming
Though Hanford was one of the first to allow medical marijuana cultivation, the city is one of the last in the valley to open a recreational pot dispensary.
A market surplus, the pandemic, and Hanford’s tortuous relationship with recreational pot has been part of the delay.
With Caliva’s encouragement, the Hanford City Council voted 5-0 July 6, in 2017 for an ordinance change in their General Plan to allow the production of medical marijuana in their industrial park. But while the city council was eager to collect the surplus tax revenue, they were still opposed to any of the cultivation going towards recreational dispensaries.
Yet Hanford was still ahead of the game at that time — as all other major cities in the Central Valley had voted to ban recreational pot and cultivation, including Fresno, Sanger, Clovis, Porterville, Reedley and Lemoore. That left the door open for Hanford to get an early jump on the market.
In November of 2017 three marijuana production companies, Caliva, Genezen and Premium Extracts, were awarded commercial cannabis permits to manufacture pot in the Hanford’s industrial zone.
Caliva received three permits for cultivation, manufacturing and distribution at a 350,000 square foot facility on 47 acres. Premium Extracts received one manufacturing permit, and Genezen received 14 permits to cultivate, manufacture, and distribute marijuana and the one campus permit to operate at a 50 acre campus like facility.
Rand Martin, CEO of Caliva, reminisced during the meeting about how only a year prior, Hanford Community Development Director Darlene Mata and Hanford Police Chief Parker Sever toured their San Jose company, and now they’re going to be part of the Hanford family.
But none of the three companies ever broke ground on cultivation. Martin said that soon after California started issuing business permits on January 1 2018 there was glut on the market of product and the business plan for cultivation no longer penciled out.
Then on March 19, 2019 Hanford City Council reversed their opposition to recreational pot and voted to legalize pot deliveries and recreational marijuana inside city limits.
Having already gone through the rigorous application process Caliva was then awarded the first storefront dispensary at Hanford’s September 2019 city council meeting. They received their Conditional Use Permit to operate in December of that year.
Caliva’s plan was to open its doors during the first quarter of 2020 but the pandemic pushed everything back including their store remodel.
In the meantime Lemoore opened two pot dispensaries one with a lounge where patrons can enjoy their product similar to a café.
Caliva started their delivery service out of the back of the store in December and just got approval from the city council to remodel their storefront. Because their building is in the historic district Caliva had to get permission before making any changes to the exterior.
HerbNJoy had its own rocky road through Hanford’s permitting process.
Hanford’s stated goal was to locate recreational dispensaries in the heart of downtown.
The first permit achieved this goal by awarding the permit to Caliva’s downtown location on Douty. But that goal came to a mysterious end during the process to award the second pot permit. Though HerbNJoy had a downtown location, and could be up and running within months, Hanford City Council awarded pot behemoth Harvest the second permit during their November 2019 meeting.
Harvest bought a location close to Chinatown and intended to take up to a year to build from the ground up. The company was also located right across the street from a youth facility.
California law forbids that dispensaries locate within 600 yards of a youth facility or school.
In addition, Harvest was implicated in an attempt to bribe Dennis Faucone, the owner of the building where the youth facility was located. City staff and lawyers were made aware of these bribes, some of them in writing, yet doubled down on recommending to the city council that Harvest get the pot permit.
What ensued was one of the stranger Hanford City Council meetings in recent memory.
Out of the 100 or so people in the audience during the November 2019 meeting not a one stepped forward during the public hearing in support of Harvest, and about a dozen spoke against them.
Ty Mizote, Hanford’s city lawyer, owned commercial property a stone’s throw from Harvest’s proposed location. This conflict of interest disqualified him from participating in the process and Mizote said he would recuse himself.
But he didn’t recuse himself and continued to advise the city council from his perch on the dais to give the second permit to Harvest. Mizote lectured the council on why WestCare was not a youth facility, talked about his childhood, grade school teachers, his office’s Halloween party, and then dissected the words “primarily” and “mainly” while the room fidgeted uncomfortably.
Then Darlene Mata, Hanford Community Development Director, thanked Mr. Mizote for his “useful lecture.”
Finally when it came time to vote, no one on the council would make a motion to give the permit to Harvest. The council members awkwardly squirmed in their chairs, fiddled with their computers and sat in silence as then Mayor Sue Sorensen glared at them.
After a confusing back-and-forth with staff and the council that was difficult to follow, Ms. Sorensen reluctantly made the motion herself. The vote was 3-2 in favor of granting Harvest the permit, with Mr. Ramirez and Mr. Brieno voting no.
Harvest never broke ground and the company ended up being bought out by Trulieve for $2.1 billion in stock.
When asked why he thought Harvest ultimately pulled out of Hanford, Faucone said he had “no idea, nothing other than prayer.”
Faucone does not believe that recreational pot is the answer to Hanford’s budget shortfalls.
“The pot companies say they are putting back into the community. Where is it?”
Elemental Wellness Center CEO Joe LoMonaco whose company came in fourth in the ranking to get a permit, has sat through many a city council meetings discussing permits and said about the debate over Harvest that “It was always a little off.”
He said that it was very odd that the lawyer did not pull himself out of the process.
“There were a lot of things that didn’t make sense,” he said.
When asked if he felt the recreational pot industry is prone to corruption LoMonaco said that it was highly unlikely. “Recreational pot licenses are too valuable and companies don’t want to mess up.”
HerbNJoy was a close third in the ranking behind Caliva and Harvest to be considered for a permit. They received their business license during a July 2020 Hanford City Council meeting after Harvest had officially pulled out.
HerbNJoy expects to have their official Hanford Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting sometime in September.
As of now, Hanford has two storefront retail operations and two cannabis delivery permits. Applications for more are not being accepted at this time.
According to Mario Cifuentez, Hanford City Manager, there is a cap of four storefront dispensaries allowed in Hanford but new permits are not going to be considered any time soon. Cifuentez said that the recreational cannabis ordinance will go through a likely update in September or October. After that update, all previous rankings of companies including Elemental will expire and the process will start over fresh.
One goal said Cifuentez is to take the city council out of the process. The new ordinance will discuss having staff pick who gets recreational business permits and leave it up to the city council in the event there is an appeal of the decision.
Licenses for cultivation, manufacturing, lab testing, and distribution are currently being accepted and will not be part of the revised pot ordinance.
Currently no company holds cultivation permits in Hanford as the ones issued in 2017 have expired. There is also no stated cap on the number of manufacturing permits the city will issue.