Port Hueneme eyes hashish lounges in try to remain aggressive

Port Hueneme offers cannabis use on-site in lounges.

In a unanimous vote on Monday, the city council instructed staff to begin revising the city’s cannabis ordinance to allow cannabis use in designated lounges.

Port Hueneme is the second city in Ventura County to consider cannabis lounges.

Ojai City Council discussed the possibility at a meeting in November. The Ojai Council generally supported cannabis lounges, although Councilor Randy Haney opposed the decision, which was part of a wider discussion of possible changes to the city’s cannabis businesses.

Ojai City Council voted to submit the changes, including the addition of cannabis lounges, to the city’s planning committee for recommendation. The Commission is expected to discuss the changes in early 2022.

A public hearing in Port Hueneme is expected in February or March before the council makes a final decision, community development director Tony Stewart said Tuesday afternoon.

Stewart couldn’t definitively say if Port Hueneme would be the first town in the county to accept cannabis lounges, but he was optimistic that the city council would approve the changes to the cannabis regulation.

More competition arrives

Over the next several years, Port Hueneme cannabis dispensaries will compete with 21 other pharmacies in the nearby towns of Oxnard and Ventura, according to a report from city officials.

By being the first to open cannabis lounges, which provide people with a place to consume cannabis in a controlled environment, Port Hueneme can continue to attract residents from across the county, according to the report.

“This will allow us to be one step ahead of these other cities and add an extra attraction to our retail pharmacies that will contend with several of these other cities,” Police Chief Andrew Salinas said at the meeting on Monday.

Local news: Port Hueneme approves $ 1,000 checks for frontline grocery and pharmacy workers

In order for the city to regulate lounges on the same level as pharmacies, city officials have prepared potential guidelines for business owners. The lounges would be next to or in a local pharmacy, according to the report. In order to limit the number of guests in the facility at once and their level of intoxication, the lounges would only be operated on a membership basis.

The city council endorsed the opening of lounges around the city and recognized them as the city’s next step in its burgeoning cannabis industry.

Alderman Steven Gama noted that people all over town were already smoking cannabis and that lounges would provide them with a safe environment to consume the products known for THC, the plant’s psychoactive ingredient.

“There are lounges everywhere,” said Gama. “Beach parks, parking lots, alleys. Almost everywhere I go, in Ralph’s parking lot, people are sitting in their cars smoking marijuana. I have to explain to my mother what that smell is. “

News from Port Hueneme: Richard Rollins will become Mayor of Port Hueneme until 2022

Two of the city’s pharmacies, Wheelhouse Dispensary and Tradecraft Farms, have asked the city to consider cannabis lounges, the staff report said.

Wheelhouse officials unveiled their plan to expand their pharmacy to open a cannabis lounge on Monday.

Upon entering the lounge, the customer’s membership status and reservation are confirmed by a receptionist, said Jessica Wells of Wheelhouse. The person can make a purchase, be it an edible or cannabis bud, and consume the product in the lounge area.

Memberships are offered on a monthly or daily basis and are limited to sessions of up to one hour.

If a customer is too drunk, the staff will refuse to sell the individual cannabis, Wells said. Customers who are too drunk are asked to take a Lyft home or have it picked up instead of driving. The rides to and from the lounge with the lift would be free for the first 5 miles.

Wheelhouse expects sales of approximately $ 1.2 million in the first year of operating a cannabis lounge, according to Wells. Of the total gross revenue, 5% goes to the city, or about $ 53,000 in the first year.

By its third year, Wheelhouse hopes to have sales of approximately $ 2.2 million, which, according to Wells, will bring $ 102,868 to the city’s coffers.

“We already have data from operations since 2019,” she said. “We use what we know as growth, what we have seen as growth, to project these numbers.”

Port Hueneme raised $ 2.2 million from cannabis dispensaries in fiscal 2020, according to city spokesman Scott Matalon.

Brian J. Varela covers Oxnard, Port Hueneme and Camarillo. He can be reached at brian.varela@vcstar.com or 805-477-8014. You can also find him on Twitter @ BrianVarela805.