The central San Joaquin Valley could have access to recreational marijuana in as little as three weeks.
Valley Pure, a new business formed in the city of Woodlake, has obtained its required local approval and state licensing to become first in the area to sell legal pot. A familiar face in the local cannabis world has taken the reins of the startup business, and he hopes to have a full-service dispensary open in the center of the small town by Feb. 1.
Wes Hardin became the face of marijuana in Tulare County as he battled a conservative board of supervisors while operating CannaCanHelp, a medical cannabis dispensary in Goshen. CannaCanHelp cleared about $5.5 million in sales in 2016 and continues to operate under a grandfather clause to the county’s marijuana ban. He had hoped to branch into recreational sales, but the county emphatically blocked him.
Now, Hardin is heading to Woodlake to manage the Valley Pure dispensary. He said that he harbored no ill will toward his former job or Tulare County, saying the move was a personal decision that allowed him to work with the “very forward-thinking” city of Woodlake.
The new dispensary will be located at 132 N. Valencia Blvd. It’s an unlikely spot for a pot shop – tucked in a commercial lot on one of the city’s main roads. The handful of local cities that have allowed marijuana dispensaries typically force the buildings into uninhabited and often dilapidated industrial areas on the outskirts of town. But Valley Pure counts a salon, an auto parts store and a Little Caesar’s pizza shop among its close neighbors.
With license in hand, Hardin needs only to complete the store’s renovations and pass a final check by the city before opening. He’s also looking to hire a few more staff members from within Woodlake.
Although photos taken Tuesday show the proposed Valley Pure storefront does not yet have any walls or anything inside, Hardin said the staff still hopes to open on Feb. 1.
“We’re working very hard to get there, and we will be open as soon as we’re done,” Hardin said.
Valley Pure is not to be confused with Green Bean Pharm, the other Woodlake dispensary that’s opening in an old lumberyard on the south end of town. In December, The Bee reported that Green Bean was on its way to becoming the Valley’s first dispensary. Both are racing to open in February, but Valley Pure was the first to get a state license and likely will open before Green Bean.
Both dispensaries will operate in a similar fashion, as state and local rules set strict parameters on cannabis storage and customer access. Customers will be required to show identification in a reception area before being allowed into a sales area. Medical cannabis patients must register with the store before buying, unlike recreational customers.
Hardin said Valley Pure will sell cannabis sourced from within the Valley and throughout the state. The shop will offer discounts to veterans and patients with serious illnesses. A membership program with various non-cannabis incentives (it is not legal to give away free weed) will also be available.
Valley Pure hopes the opening will be the start of a long and fruitful partnership with the city of Woodlake, which dove into marijuana even as most of its conservative neighbors shied away.
“This is a long-term business,” Hardin said. “We’re not planning to just be here for a year. We want to play ball in the most responsible way and make sure customers get the best deals every time they come in.”
Hardin is not the owner of Valley Pure. Discerning the owners of marijuana companies is tricky, as many register under vague corporation or limited liability corporation names. Many investors choose to stay in the shadows, as they are underwriting something that is federally illegal.
Valley Pure first registered with the city under the name CCW LLC. But Hardin identified the new owners as United Property Interests Corporation. State records indicate the corporation was formed in October and lists Bruce Kopitar, owner of US Tower in Woodlake, as its chief executive officer. Kopitar also paid $30,000 for the city of Woodlake’s study on the cannabis industry in 2017.
Hardin said the owners also run a medical dispensary in Ben Lomond in Santa Cruz County.