Opinion: Redwood City needs to do a better job scrutinizing applications for cannabis store permits


Daily Post Editor

Remember Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, where all of the children are above average?

Redwood City has released a list of applicants for the six licenses it will issue for cannabis stores, and every one of them got a rating of 85% or better in the first round (see chart at bottom).

City Manager Melissa Stevenson Diaz’s list says 15 of the 27 applicants got scores better than 99%, and three received perfect scores.

Wow! How could the city go wrong when picking the six winners? Everybody is above average, just like the kids in Lake Wobegon.

But a little digging shows some of the applicants getting high ratings have significant problems.

Take TAT Redwood City, also known as The Artist Tree, a Los Angeles operator trying to get a foothold in Northern California.

As the Post reported on Friday, a lawsuit in Fresno accuses TAT of lying on its application there. TAT is accused of using a fake local owner to get more points in the Fresno rating system.

How did that lawsuit slip by the people in Stevenson Diaz’s office, who gave TAT a 100% score?

It should be noted that the lawsuit was filed by Catalyst, a company that lost out in the Fresno competition for a retail license, so this could be a case of sour grapes.

Catalyst is also suing 1261 Wishon OCPO (also known as Cookies) for the same problem — a fake local owner, according to the San Joaquin Valley Sun.

Cookies, a national chain, is in the running in Redwood City under the name Jiva RWC. Jiva RWC got a 99.67% rating.

Remarkably, the lawsuit in Fresno is unfolding at the same time Stevenson Diaz’s employees were interviewing these two companies.

The Cookie Monster issue

The Cookies chain has got other problems. A July 2 story in the San Diego Union Tribune begins as follows:

“San Diego officials are criticizing a local cannabis dispensary chain for allegedly marketing to children by naming its dispensaries ‘Cookies’ and mimicking Sesame Street graphics to evoke the Cookie Monster character.

“The Cookies chain, which operates dispensaries in Mission Valley and La Mesa, received final approval last week (late July) for a third dispensary in Sorrento Valley despite strong objections from community leaders.”

The story goes on to say that the planning commissioners who approved the store were told they had to make their decision based on the zoning code and not their opinions about the store’s name.

One planning commissioner, Kelly Moden, was quoted as saying it was troubling that young people will travel past the new store because it is near several other teen-oriented facilities.

“If they want to expand their business and go into other locations, they are probably going to continue to get this feedback from communities that have a lot of families,” Moden said, according to the San Diego newspaper.

As I recall, when the Redwood City Council decided to allow cannabis stores, one of the issues council members wrestled with was their concern about the marketing of marijuana to youth. Has that just been forgotten?

How did this happen?

Residents and City Council ought to be asking — how did these applicants get such high scores?

It’s one of two things. Either these two applicants weren’t transparent or the city didn’t thoroughly investigate them.

Time for council members to put the brakes on this process — this isn’t an urgent matter — and conduct a full investigation of the applicants.

Council members will have egg on their faces if the city fails in the selection process.

Editor Dave Price’s column appears on Mondays. His email address is [email protected].



  1. From what i’ve heard, these applicants are mostly chains fronted by local people to mislead the cities. It’s a corrupt industry and the city ought to open its eyes to the fact that it’s being scammed.

  2. The users, dealers, and public agencies anxious for their share of the drug profits have all worked very hard to hide the realities. Pot became cannabis, drug dealing became dispensaries (to sell the idea that pot is medicinal and dealers actually performing a needed service) and all around the State counties are pushing acceptance to grow the new ‘industry’. After regulations – which the dealers are now trying to get around – even the state is trying to lower the taxes charged because it is proving a burden to the dealers. Those taxes were promised to the voters to pay for anti-weed messaging to the young, code enforcement, and hiring additional police and inspectors. Pot was supposed to reduce or eliminate the illicit trade, it hasn’t. Instead local governments have joined the trade to get their cut of the action and now, just as the State has a well-developed gambling addiction, it is now developing a drug revenue addiction. No question that the pot trade, now laying out distribution and marketing, will push ever-more exotic and dangerous products if not through the ‘dispensaries’ then through shadow lines and agents. Public agencies exist to regulate commerce whether it’s food or finance, they are required to insure that businesses follow the rules to protect the public. Voters hoped legalization would stem the growing problem that the war on drugs failed to do (fentanyl, opioids, heroine – and pot). If the agencies do not take the legal trade seriously and enforce regulations, a big, new, legal drug industry could be a much worse cure than the initial problem. The new drug dealing can’t be yet another public function that California government fails to do.

  3. A cannabis dispensary Airfield Supply Company is applying for permits to open up shop in our residential neighborhood. The address is the vacant Any Mountain store at 928 Whipple Ave. We are totally against this company doing business in our area.

    • I totally agree here. We need to get these “businesses” away from our families and kids. If there’s some legitimate medicinal use then move this kind of stuff near Kaiser downtown’s industrial area.

  4. I think fighting that application is a lost cause. If the city gives high marks to a store that caters to children (Cookies), they’ll say yes to anything if it means more tax revenue.

  5. The lawsuit was filed by a losing applicant, Catalyst, which has a long history of suing cities when it does not win in merit based cannabis license application processes. In its Petition for Writ of Mandamus, Catalyst alleged that TAT Fresno misrepresented information on its application by claiming that Lawrence Artenian was 51% owner of the business. A simple search on the California Secretary of State website shows that Catalyst was blatantly incorrect. The Statement of Information for TAT Fresno LLC clearly shows that TAT Fresno LLC is co-owned by LMA Fresno LLC, which is wholly owned by Lawrence Artenian, as shown on its Statement of Information. Catalyst presented no other evidence or claims in its Writ that support its assertion that Lawrence Artenian is not 51% owner of TAT Fresno LLC. The Artist Tree has a long track record of winning merit based application processes in major cities and opening beautiful and inviting cannabis destinations. It would be a welcome addition to Redwood City.

    • Welcome by who? Time to ask if ‘the movement’ consists of potheads and drug dealers or the community consisting of residents trying to protect their homes and households and children from opportunists. ALL of the claims that pot is in some way beneficial to a community have been disproved – doesn’t defeat illegal trade (illegal trade has grown), doesn’t bring in new tax revenue, does increase crime, and has minimal medicinal value if any vs. harm. Time for cities to revisit the decision to legalize because we can’t trade our neighborhoods and kids to enable a few potheads to get high and a few crooks to get rich. Government went too far in permitting something it can’t control

    • The CA Secretary of State’s Statement Information doesn’t show ownership, so John is lying. The statement only has to list a registered agent for service of lawsuits. If a “manager” is listed, that person doesn’t have to be an owner and often isn’t. John’s lying to minimize the seriousness of the lawsuit against his company. If it’s proven that TAT provided false information in a city application, TAT could be barred from holding cannabis licenses statewide, making its Redwood City application moot. Since he was willing to lie in the comments section here, it’s a safe bet that he lied in his application to the city.

  6. Thank you Daily Post for the important story. I have lived in the area for forty years. Redwood City like most bay areas cities and counties true mission is to raise taxes,fees tolls and increase the profits of developers and businesses.The famous sign moved from El Camino Real to Broadway st says Redwood City (Climate best by government test). The sign should say Redwood City, We don’t say no to developers/businesses money. What a corrupt city. When Belmont, San Carlos and other cities say no, Good old Redwood City says yes.Its all about the money $$$. Secret closed door meetings. Closed family businesses, like Mels bowling alley, roller rink, ice rink, Malibu grand prix, Castle and games, sport center,batting cages, billiards/arcades,low cost stores, Foods Co, Big Lots,Big five and many more, replaced with expensive condos, apartments ,vacant offices and land. Redwood City is out of control. For decades the cities zoning department had the full authority to approve projects. Six cannabis stores in Redwood City. That is outrageous. One store is to many. Cannabis is a gateway drug, dangerous for children, teens, young adults and pregnant women and the unborn child. Keep a watchful eye on these horrible dnagerous actions by Redwood City.

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