Marijuana retail, production facilities proposed in Sorrento Valley

Due to its location tucked away from residential zones, schools and other public facilities, Sorrento Valley has become a landing spot for legal marijuana facilities in San Diego’s Council District 1. In Sorrento Valley, there are currently two retail marijuana outlets going through the city process for approval and nine pending applications for marijuana production facility licenses, one of which includes a 29,000-square-foot grow house.

Each council district is limited to four retail marijuana outlets and Sorrento Valley already has two—Torrey Holistics has been operating as a retail outlet since January and OutCo (Outliers Collective) was approved this year and is expected to open in January 2019.

There are 12 total retail applications under review by the city. Council District 2 (the beach, bays, Clairemont and Linda Vista) and District 8 (Barrio Logan, Otay Mesa, San Ysirdro) both have reached their limit of four retail outlets.

Per City Council regulations there is no cap on marijuana production facilities per district as few of the council districts have the appropriate zoning for such facilities. The council did approve a citywide cap of 40, there are currently 69 in the application process seeking licenses and seven approved.

Retail sales are prohibited at city production facilities which are meant for the agricultural raising, harvesting and processing of marijuana. No signage is allowed at the production facilities and like marijuana outlets, they are not permitted 100 feet from residential zones and 1,000 feet from public parks, churches, childcare, playgrounds, minor-oriented facilities and schools.

For production facilities there is no separation requirement from other production facilities or retail outlets—retail outlets cannot be located 1,000 feet from another marijuana outlet.

On Oct. 11, the Torrey Pines Planning Board voted 9-3 to recommend denial of the proposed Strainwise marijuana outlet on 11189 Sorrento Valley Road, suite 103. The project is still in review by city staff and a public hearing has not yet been scheduled.The project is proposed in the five-unit Venture Commerce Center complex which also houses the Del Mar Union School District (DMUSD)’s maintenance and operations office.

The planning board’s denial was based on concerns about public safety, lack of parking and environmental issues due to the project’s proximity to a floodway and a wildlife corridor as well as potential legal issues as the CC&Rs for the Venture Commerce Center Sorrento Condominium Association state that marijuana dispensaries are not allowed.

“Board members even questioned the applicant as to why they would even consider this site to be viable, knowing both the legal challenges and the ultra-sensitive environmental issues,” the board’s denial letter states.

For public safety, two armed security guards are required to be present at all times but while Strainwise will be bullet-proofed, the neighboring suite with DMUSD’s office will not be.The planning board’s denial details that DMUSD has a large glass frontage with a reception area, offices and conference room within a few feet of the armed guards. The planning board said a precedent was established by the Torrey Holistics facility that all adjacent commercial uses within the building should be provided with bullet-proofing measures.

“This lack of concern for the public’s safety is direct grounds to deny this application,” the board’s letter stated.

While the planning board recommended denial of the OutCo and Strainwise projects, they did approve a proposed marijuana outlet on 10150 Sorrento Valley Road in the Pacific Sorrento Technology Park, located on the first floor of a three-story building.

The Pacific Sorrento outlet was approved by the city’s hearing officer on Sept. 19 and the environmental determination was appealed to City Council in October. A City Council hearing will be held on Nov. 15 on the environmental determination— a San Diego Planning Commission hearing would be scheduled after the City Council’s determination.

Sorrento Valley’s Torrey Holistics opened in February 2016 as a medical marijuana dispensary and, in December 2017, it was the first recreational cannabis dispensary and delivery service license granted in the state of California. According to Ruthie Edelson, marketing and educational director, the outlet opened to retail sales on Jan. 1 with a line wrapped around the building.

At the outlet, two armed security guards are on site and guests must go through a metal detector to enter the reception area. Guests must check in at reception with a valid identification card and must sign a Prop 64 waiver that reminds people that they cannot resell what they purchase and they cannot use within 1,000 feet of the shop.

“No one is using around here,” Edelson said, noting that items are purchased in child-proof packaging and are supposed to be placed in the trunk of a car when driving.

At Torrey Holistics, guests are paired with “cannabis concierge” when they enter the retail section of the outlet—the products are not all on a shelf for perusing but behind a counter, allowing the concierge to discuss the products and inform about appropriate dosing which Edelson said is especially important for new recreational users.

Torrey Holistics offers up a selection of flower, edibles, tinctures, ointments and sparkling elixirs.They recently became the first dispensary to sell California’s first-ever cannabis-infused wine, Rebel Coast. Per regulations, alcohol and THC cannot be combined—after the alcohol is removed from the wine, the THC is infused into the exclusive sauvignon blanc bottle.

“We knew our demographic would be perfect for this,” Edelson said.

Torrey Holistic also staffs in-house cannabis consultant Dr. Beth, a scientist who holds a Ph.D in molecular biology and biochemistry, to provide private consultations to help guide customers.

As the industry grows, Edelson said Torrey Holistics wants to be seen as the professional business that it is and they want to be a part of the community. During Breast Cancer Awareness Month they donated a portion of proceeds from vape pens to Susan G. Komen, they have participated in beach clean-ups and throughout the month of November, Torrey Holistics is partnering with Got Your Back San Diego’s program to help alleviate childhood hunger. Every person who donates a 16 oz. plastic jar of peanut butter receives a penny pre-roll with purchase.

In their mission to educate, Torrey Holistics also offers weekly Cannabis 101 classes open to the community to learn about various topics and once a quarter, they open their doors to medical professionals for an open house on medical cannabis with eight to ten vendors. Edelson said particularly with the opioid crisis, they want to give the medical community the information they need to learn about alternatives to pain management as well as issues like arthritis and sleep disorders.

“I think it’s very important to educate the community more about today’s new normal,” Edelson said.