By Rene Ray De La Cruz Staff Writer

Posted Feb 11, 2019 at 10:28 AM Updated Feb 11, 2019 at 10:34 AM


HESPERIA — Businesswoman Arleen Curiel Casas is one of many female entrepreneurs helping to change the face of the growing cannabis industry.

Casas, 37, is the co-owner and president of the recently opened Medical Cannabis Educational Center, the first legal non-storefront medical cannabis delivery business located in Hesperia’s “green zone.”

“Being the first to open in the green zone was a total team effort by the entire MCEC staff,” said Casas, a communications major and graduate from California State University, Northridge. “We opened after we studied the market and understood the needs of those who need medical cannabis.”

Casas is one of many female trailblazers who’ve opened cannabis-based businesses in states where the plant has been legalized. She’s also part of a growing percentage of women holding upper-level positions in the cannabis industry.

Over the last three years, the number of female-run businesses in the industry has risen to nearly 40 percent, about 15 percent higher than the national average for all U.S. businesses, according to Chemical & Engineering News.

“The wave of women business owners are leading the charge in the cannabis world because it allows them the opportunity to nurture and care for people, while allowing them to spread their entrepreneurial wings,” said Casas. Her business delivers cannabis-based products from a 3,000-square-foot facility to people in the High Desert and throughout Southern California.

“Women who live the cannabis lifestyle, both medicinally and recreationally, understand the benefits of this plant,” said Casas, who opened the business with her husband, Rick. “We have the same amount of knowledge as men do when it comes to responsible use and healing benefits. My belief is that by women having an innate and nurturing approach, it’s bringing in a new wave of women who have always wanted to lead by example.”

The MCEC facility includes a call center, a state-of-the-art security system, 24 surveillance cameras, GPS driver/product tracking map, computer data center and fulfillment area.

One of Casas’ goals is to end the stigma surrounding medical cannabis by emphasizing the “wellness and the holistic aspects” of medical cannabis.

To promote the medicinal benefits of cannabis, Casas and her MCEC team will host the inaugural “Cannabis Education Day” on Feb. 23 at the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel in Hesperia.

As the cannabis industry continues to grow, women will become leaders in making cannabis use more “respectable and mainstream,” she said.

Female entrepreneurs across the country are opening businesses that offer CDB, pipes, edibles, oils, concentrates, topicals, and body care products. Others have started up cultivation farms, dispensaries, salons, bakeries, coffee shops and have offered event planning and accounting services.

“There are so many opportunities in this industry,” Casas said. “If people aren’t into smoking, they can bake cookies, create oils or even offer consulting services.”

Attorney Pamela Epstein, who has spoken to the Hesperia City Council on cannabis legalization and to community leaders across the nation, told the Daily Press it’s “empowering to see women taking leadership roles in cannabis.”

Women make 80 percent of the decisions in households, including whether to use or invest in cannabis, she said. “Women are finding not only a voice in the industry but a seat at the head of the table.”

The managing partner at Green Wise Legal and CEO at Green Wise Consulting, Epstein said cannabis is “rooted in compassion” and presents an opportunity to “fuse together passion, advocacy business a natural vehicle to empower women to step into leadership roles.”

“As a nascent industry, there are no preconceived notions or roles, which has led to diversity,” said Epstein, who lives in Los Angeles. “I, for one, am grateful to cannabis and the community for embracing new voices.”

Businesswoman Kasha Herrington, 53, who’s been in the cannabis industry for more than eight years and recently opened her Rehab Delivery business in the city’s green zone, said she understands why women are influencing the cannabis industry.

Women possess inherent attributes that give them an edge in the cannabis world, she said. Men “only see dollars signs and the psychoactive effects of cannabis,” Herrington said.

“Women are heading up the charge in the cannabis industry because of nurture and nature,” Herrington said. “Women are more nurturing by nature, which is perfect for an industry that offers relief for so many people.

After walking away from a nearly 30-year career in the insurance industry, Herrington began using medical cannabis after a car accident placed her on a steady regimen of painkillers.

“After the painkillers stopped working, I started used medical cannabis and it worked wonders,” Herrington said. “That’s when I started moving toward opening a medical cannabis delivery service.”

Although her parents were initially disappointed by Herrington’s use of cannabis, her father began using the plant himself after Loma Linda University Hospital “sent him home to die with liver cancer,” she said.

“He started using Rick Simpson Oil at 84 years old and a year later he was cancer-free,” Herrington said. “He’s still cancer-free and he’ll turn 90 in March. Now you know the passion behind what I do.”

“It doesn’t matter if you are male or female. We both share the same passion and we root for each other,” Casas said. “I have experienced this firsthand working with both my brother and my husband. They have been my biggest advocates and although it has been an incredibly long journey, it turned out as I expected.”

Reporter Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com, Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz

Reporter Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com, Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz


By Rene Ray De La Cruz Staff Writer

Posted Jan 21, 2019 at 7:00 AM HESPERIA — The owners of Medical Cannabis Educational Center will host its inaugural “Cannabis Education Day” to discuss the medicinal benefits of cannabis.

MCEC will host the free non-recreational event on Feb. 23 at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel in Hesperia. The adult-only event will include more than 20 vendors, food trucks, giveaways, swag, activities and free coupons that can be redeemed for cannabis-based products.

“We want as many people to come and to ask questions about the benefits of medical cannabis,” said MCEC CEO Rick Casas, who helped open the first legal cannabis-based business in Hesperia last year.

The MCEC-hosted event is a “medical event only” and vendors are prohibited from giving out products other than CBD.

Vendors will give away free coupons to patients with a medical card. Coupons can be redeemed during delivery by MCEC when they place their first order, Casas said.

Cannabis and CBD user Marilyn Garrison, 55, believes the MCEC event will help “bridge the gap” for those wanting to try cannabis-based products but “don’t know who to ask.”

“I smoked a joint back in high school but never tried marijuana again until about five years ago when I injured my back,” said Garrison, a financial consultant who lives in Oak Hills.

In an attempt to stave off back pain and to avoid prescription drugs, Garrison began searching for medical alternative treatments such as acupuncture, herbs and deep tissue massage.

Garrison said a colleague at work recommend she try several indica strains of cannabis and CBD-infused products to treat her pain.

Not wanting to “smoke, toke or dab,” Garrison purchased THC and CBD-infused baked goods and candy, which she now uses regularly.

“Not everybody has a friend who can introduce them to cannabis that’s why these education classes, seminars and festivals are so valuable,” Garrison said. “They help people who want to try something different.”

Industry leaders say THC and CBD resemble the cannabinoid chemicals that occur naturally in the body. Ingesting THC or CBD stimulates the brain’s cannabinoid receptors, which many claim, reduces pain levels.

THC is a psychoactive compound that produces a high compared to CBD which also interacts with pain receptors in the brain but does not cause a high.

Casas said he hopes to make Cannabis Education Day an annual or even bi-annual event based on the success of next month’s event.

MCEC is billed as the first and largest Type M9, non-storefront, state-sanctioned medical cannabis delivery service based in San Bernardino County.

Cannabis Education Day is scheduled from noon to 4 p.m on Feb. 23 at the Courtyard by Marriott located at 9619 Mariposa Rd. in Hesperia. For more information on MCEC, visit www.mcecdelivery.com or www.facebook.com/MCECSoCal.

Reporter Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com, Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz



By Rene Ray De La Cruz Staff Writer

Posted Dec 19, 2018 at 3:47 PM Updated Dec 19, 2018 at 8:19 PM

HESPERIA — The city council voted 4-0 Tuesday night to assess a four percent tax on all cannabis-based products sold by business owners in the city’s green zone.

Approval of Measure T on Nov. 6 allowed the council to implement a tax between 1 and 6 percent.

The new tax will be collected beginning Friday. Revenue generated will go into the general fund to pay for sheriff’s deputies, code enforcement and other services, city staff said.

After many cannabis business owners and activists filled council chambers over the years to plead for the sale of cannabis in the city, CEO Rick Casas of Medical Cannabis Educational Center was the only person connected to the industry to attend Tuesday’s meeting.

“I’m simply dumbfounded that nobody from our industry showed up to the meeting to provide insight and feedback,” Casas told the Daily Press afterward. “Now, we’re all going to be assessed four percent, which will be absorbed by the business or passed on to the patients.”

In August, Casas opened the first legal cannabis-based business in the city’s green zone. His Type M-9 medical cannabis delivery service was the first state-sanctioned business of its type in San Bernardino County.

Before the vote, Casas asked the council to consider a tax of 1 to 1.5 percent. He said MCEC and four other cannabis businesses are subject to a 15 percent excise tax and state sales tax of 7.75 percent.

“We’re fighting the recreational market and the illicit market,” said Casas, who added that the two markets are thriving while taking business from those who comply with state and city regulations.

Kasha Herrington, who in September opened Rehab Delivery, a medical cannabis delivery service, did not attend the council meeting and said other cannabis leaders also stayed away because they believed their voices would not be heard.

“The council is done listening to us and they’re going to do what they want to do,” said Herrington. “Hitting us with this higher tax is going to take money from Hesperia and give it to the black market, which is already thriving.”

Newly elected Councilman Jeremiah Brosowske, who suggested the council hear from residents before setting the tax rate, abstained from voting.

There are seven additional cannabis businesses working through the application process with the city, which allows for only non-storefront delivery businesses that provide medical cannabis.

During the discussion, Mayor Pro Tem Bill Holland made a motion for the four percent tax. Newly appointed Mayor Larry Bird, an opponent of the cannabis industry, said he would have exceeded Measure T’s six percent ceiling if possible.

The council also discussed how cannabis businesses would be held accountable for paying the tax. “There’s a potential to do side deals,” said Bird.

Casas said cannabis businesses in California are required to use “Metrc,” the state system that provides oversight of rules, regulations and laws for the commercial cannabis industry. He said cannabis products are now labeled in order to be tracked and that his company labels all products.

The council also discussed how taxes would be paid to the city since the banking system largely considers cannabis illegal and refuses to do business with the industry.

Casas told the council that most cannabis businesses that pay tax use an armored transport to deliver cash to City Hall.

Casas said he was disappointed by the higher tax passed by the council and hopes the city will use the revenue to help “eradicate the black market that is thriving in the city.”

“Although I respect their decision, I don’t believe the current council has a finger on the pulse of the local cannabis industry,” Casas said. “The higher tax will hurt industry leaders who are doing everything by the book.”

Herrington said the council should have set the tax rate at two percent, with the idea of raising it incrementally over the next few years.

“Congratulations Hesperia, you just fueled the black market,” Herrington said of the vote to implement a four percent tax. “The underground is laughing at us.”

Reporter Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com, Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz



By Rene Ray De La Cruz Staff Writer

Posted Aug 19, 2018 at 6:42 PM Updated Aug 20, 2018 at 9:36 PM

HESPERIA — It was a historic day for one local municipality when the first legal medical cannabis business began making deliveries from the city’s green zone.

Medical Cannabis Educational Center in Hesperia celebrated its grand opening Friday by delivering medical cannabis-based products to legally registered patients in the High Desert and the Inland Empire.

“We are excited to be serving the entire High Desert and all of San Bernardino County,” said Arleen Curiel, 37, the owner and president of MCEC. “It has been an incredibly long journey to open our doors, but we finally crossed the finish line.”

Like a child on Christmas morning, 65-year-old Wayne Lanphere, of Hesperia, was all smiles when Curiel personally delivered the senior’s order of Calm Reserve Shelf Flower, the official first product order by MCEC.

“I broke my back in five places way back in 1996 and since then, I’ve been in extreme pain,” Lanphere told the Daily Press as he stood outside his home. “I will not use opioids and I will not use painkillers, so this is my alternative.”

After experiencing several “frustrating” encounters with other medical cannabis businesses, Lanphere said he chose MCEC because of their “reputation” and “great customer service.”

As Curiel drove back to the MCEC facility, she expressed her joy and said, “I could not have asked for a better first patient — this is why I do what I do, to help people like Wayne who really need the medicine.”

After being introduced to the local cannabis industry nearly two years ago by her brother, Jose, Curiel decided to spread her entrepreneurial wings by working toward opening the 3,000-square-foot facility that is now home to 30 employees.

“I remember when the city of Hesperia was adamant about not allowing the sale of medical cannabis in the city,” Curiel said. “It took a lot of work by a lot of people, but the City Council finally relented and today we’re helping people in Hesperia and across the High Desert.”

The MCEC facility includes a call center, a state-of-the-art security system, 24 surveillance cameras, GPS driver/product tracking map, computer data center and fulfillment area.

After returning to MCEC from making her delivery, Curiel was greeted with shouts of jubilation from company CEO Rick Casas and a group of employees who congratulated the conquering cannabis queen.

“We waited a long time for this, but we finally made it,” said Casas, as the sound of phones continued to ring throughout the building and employees filled multiple orders.

Nearly five minutes after opening, MCEC had already taken four orders for a variety of products, with a total price tag of over $500.

All MCEC orders must be delivered directly to the patient who placed the order. Drivers are trained not to enter homes and delivery vehicles only carry product that has been ordered. All vehicles are also equipped with security cameras.

“If you look around, you’ll see a high-tech professional business that is clean, orderly, proficient and very relaxed,” Curiel said. “It has a high-end and approachable boutique look, and it’s a place where our employees are proud to work.”

A communications major and graduate from California State University, Northridge, Curiel said the words “medical and education” validate what her company represents, adding that one of the goals of MCEC is to “end the stigma” that surrounds medical cannabis.

“My eyes were opened when I saw how medical cannabis really helped people — that’s why I really want to drive home that initiative with MCEC and change the image of medical cannabis,” Curiel said. “The wellness and holistic aspects of medical cannabis are really near and dear to my heart.”

Part of Curiel’s passion behind spreading the gospel of medical cannabis to those who are ailing comes from a loved one battling cancer who was helped by the popular and controversial plant.

“We’re serving the High Desert and the Inland Empire now, but our future plans include expanding into Los Angeles and Ventura counties and beyond,” Curiel said. “I’m sure we’ll transition to recreational use at one point, but right now our goal is to clean up the reputation of cannabis by helping one patient at a time.”

Besides running her company, Curiel reluctantly shared how she is active in the local community, recently assisting a nonprofit that cares for families.

“It’s just part of who I am,” Curiel said.

MCEC is a fully state-sanctioned, for-profit corporation, Casas emphasized. MCEC transitioned from the former “Medical Marijuana Educational Center,” which was a nonprofit, mutual benefit corporation that served Prop. 215 patients. In January, the classification and model will no longer be recognized.

MCEC is the first of nearly a dozen cannabis delivery businesses in Hesperia which will begin transporting medical cannabis, edibles, concentrates and cannabis-related products to legally registered patients in the High Desert and surrounding region.

Marijuana deliveries must be made to residential addresses and no walk-up services are permitted. All medically related uses of cannabis are prohibited, except for delivery services to medical patients, according to the city of Hesperia.

MCEC patients have the option of ordering via call center, website and mobile app while tracking orders using real-time GPS, said Casas.

NuggMD.com and MCEC have partnered to help individuals obtain their medical cannabis card online. Once approved, the medical card from NuggMD is instantly emailed to the patient and MCEC.

For more information, or to place an order, call 760-299-6232, 833-420-6232, email info@mcecdelivery.com or visit www.mcecdelivery.com.

Reporter Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com, Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruzand Instagram @reneraydelacruz



By Rene Ray De La Cruz Staff Writer

Posted Jun 24, 2018 at 7:56 AM

HESPERIA — Residents will soon vote on the taxation of commercial cannabis sales in the city’s new green zone.

On Tuesday, the Hesperia City Council approved placing the item on the general election ballot in November, where voters could decide on a tax of 1 to 6 percent on cannabis activity.

The city could see a green revenue stream from the eight cannabis delivery businesses that are currently moving through the permitting and construction process. Based on current trends, city staff believes there could be as many as 20 delivery services open within the next two years.

Currently, Hesperia does not have a tax related to commercial cannabis activities. While some revenue is generated by business license fees, a tax on the gross receipts of the cannabis business operations can provide a new revenue source for the city.

The new revenue stream could be used for any number of things, including improvements to the city, funding of new programs for residents, and beautification projects, staff reported during Tuesday’s meeting.

“I feel the city of Hesperia made a concerted effort to help work with the cannabis-based businesses as they work toward being fully operational, that’s why they should be awarded,” said Medical Cannabis Educational Center Board Member and Compliance Officer Rick Casas.

Casas and his team are scheduled to open in July, the first state-sanctioned Type M- 9 non-storefront medical cannabis delivery service in all of San Bernardino County.

If opened today, cannabis-based businesses in the city would be subject to a 15 percent excise tax and state sales tax of 7.75 percent.

During the meeting, the Council also reviewed commercial cannabis taxation in surrounding cities such as Adelanto, which has a tax rate of 5 percent, Long Beach at 6 percent, Needles at 10 percent, and Palms Springs at 15 percent.

While legitimizing the cannabis market is an important goal and burdening the cannabis market with taxes that are too high can encourage the black market, staff said tempering those legitimate activities with a reasonable tax rate can reap benefits to the community in the form of new revenue streams.

Some cities who choose not to impose a city tax are collecting money from cannabis businesses by charging business owners a percent of gross sales, charging the business by the square foot of business space or charging a yearly rate.

Reporter Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com, Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruzand Instagram @reneraydelacruz.


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By Rene Ray De La Cruz Staff Writer

Posted Jun 23, 2018 at 6:00 AM Updated Jun 23, 2018 at 6:39 PM

HESPERIA — With nearly a dozen cannabis delivery businesses currently involved in the permitting process, many in the cannabis community believe the city is using “stall tactics” to prevent them from being the first to open in the city’s green zone.

Some also believe the city of Hesperia is orchestrating a “witch hunt” of the same cannabis business owners who continue to operate “illegally” within the city limits. They also claim the city has allowed these businesses to operate unencumbered until they obtain permission to open in the green zone.

A cannabis business owner, who wished to remain anonymous, claimed Hesperia code enforcement personnel “raided” several homes that belong to business owners looking to open in the city’s green zone.

Hesperia spokeswoman Rachel Molina denied the allegations, telling the Daily Press, “The city isn’t stalling and there is no witch hunt.”

New Natural Solutions was “found to be illegally operating out of their home” in Hesperia last month, according to Molina, who added, “The city and state have revoked their state M-Type 9 Retailer license and City Dispensary Delivery Permit.”

Located inside a 2,040-square-foot warehouse on Juniper Street and just east of the railroad tracks, New Natural Solutions was slated to open this year, the Daily Press previously reported.

New Natural Solutions owners Daniel and Lisa Johnson, who also operate as Kushman 420 Top Shelf, began using their temporary state license for New Solutions last month “on an unlawful website for Kushman 420 Top Shelf,” according to a letter from city Administrative Analyst Tina Bulgarelli to the Bureau of Cannabis Control.

The city issued the Johnsons a cease-and-desist order via email, with Bulgarelli telling the owners by phone to “immediately cease operations.”

Hesperia Code Enforcement and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department served an inspection warrant on the Johnsons’ home, where evidence of an illegal delivery dispensary was found, including product, large amounts of cash, driver instructions, delivery instructions, deliveries in progress, and their functioning website, according to Bulgarelli’s letter to the BCC.

Product and cash were seized by the Sheriff’s Department and the city, which proceeded to remove permit approval of New Natural Solutions, Bulgarelli wrote.

Lisa Johnson would not provide comment.

Businesses “operating illegally” will continue to be shuttered, as is true with all types of businesses operating outside the perimeters of the law, Molina said.

“There is currently a barbeque restaurant in plan-check; if this applicant was selling barbeque illegally out of their home, Code Enforcement would shut down the illegal operation,” Molina said.

Cannabis business owner Charlene Lundquist said the city is using “stall tactics” to keep businesses from opening in the green zone.

“Think about it, it’s almost July and we haven’t seen one delivery business open yet,” Lundquist said. “There’s some suspicious (expletive) going on in Hesperia and it stinks.”

As applicants make their way through the plan-check process, it seems that many have never gone through the process and are unfamiliar with it, which can create delays, Molina said.

“In this respect, delays can be caused by missing or incomplete information, lack of original documents submitted or lack of necessary insurance coverage,” Molina said. “It is incumbent on the cannabis dispensary applicant, just like any other business, to submit the necessary information to the city to progress through the development process.”

Delays associated with missing information or submitting plans in non-compliance with city code are caused by the applicant, not the city, Molina said.

Businesses going through the permitting process include Blaze Palm, Medical Cannabis Education Center, Green Scorpion, Hesperia Wellness, Rehab Delivery, Higher Planes Medical Group, Harvest of Hesperia, Caniliv Systems, Inc. and Flower Power, with the City’s Development Review Committee soon to discuss Higher Planes Medical Group’s possible introduction to the green zone.

Medical Cannabis Education Center Board Member and Compliance Officer Rick Casas said he’s hoping to open his delivery business sometime in July in a 3,000-square-foot suite on G Avenue between Eucalyptus and Lilac streets.

Dubbed the “first state-sanctioned” Type M-9 non-storefront medical cannabis delivery service in all of San Bernardino County, Casas said working through the permitting process was a long process, but one that will “benefit the community.”

The MCEC website welcomes visitors with the message they are a “read only” site until they begin operations. The introduction also reads, “We invite you to enter and educate yourself with the incredible benefits of medical cannabis.”

Rehab Delivery owner Kasha Herrington said she closed her delivery business at the beginning of the year to “eliminate any problems” with the city and Sheriff’s Department.

“Once the city of Hesperia approves our building permit, we’ll build our cannabis room, then we’ll apply for our state license,” Herrington said. “We’re respecting the boundaries set by the city and it’s been a long and difficult six months, but it’s worth it.”

Both Casas and Herrington praised former Mayor Russ Blewett for his support of the cannabis community and the city’s green zone, with Casas saying Blewett was “a man of his word,” and Herrington remarking, “The cannabis community owes a lot to Russ Blewett.”

Reporter Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com, Twitter@DP_ReneDeLaCruz.



By Rene Ray De La Cruz Staff Writer

Posted Apr 22, 2018 at 6:00 AM Updated Apr 24, 2018 at 4:07 PM

HESPERIA — Medical Cannabis Educational Center Board Member and Compliance Officer Rick Casas recently announced that his company has achieved a unique milestone.

“We are officially the first state-sanctioned Type M- 9 medical cannabis delivery service in all of San Bernardino County,” Casas told the Daily Press Wednesday. “We will begin operation as soon as we receive our certificate of occupancy by the great city of Hesperia.”

The state license does not allow MCEC to operate as a delivery business until they secure a certificate of occupancy, but it does allow them to build its infrastructure until that time, Casa said.

Hesperia allows and regulates commercial cannabis activities, limited to state license Type M-9, non-storefront retailers and delivery services only. All other commercial cannabis activities are prohibited within the city limits, the Daily Press has previously reported.

“The temporary license allows us to work with licensed vendors who are prohibited from doing business with those not approved by the state,” Casas said. “We’re following the rules and doing everything by the book. This license is the manifestation of the hard work and due diligence that our team has done. I don’t think all of this has sunk in yet.”

Casa’s new business is located in an existing 3,000-square-foot suite in the city’s green zone at 11114 G Ave., between Eucalyptus and Lilac streets.

Clearing phase one of the approval process was the hardest part to opening MCEC, which will soon deliver medical cannabis-based products across the region and gain notoriety on what’s considered the largest cannabis website in the world, Casas told the Daily Press.

Currently, the Jet Room dispensary in Adelanto is the only High Desert-based business listed on Leafly.com, which claims to promote only legally permitted cannabis-based business, but that will soon change.

“The Jet Room in on Leafly because they are a permitted dispensary that allows customers on site,” Casas said. “We’re only delivery and we won’t be serving customers on site, but we’ll soon be the only non-storefront delivery business on Leafly that’s based in the High Desert.”

Once completed, MCEC will include a call center for on-demand delivery, product room security area, and offices. Build out will take no longer than 30 days once Casas receives his certificate of occupancy.

“We now have a responsibility as the first and only state sanctioned Type-M 9 non-storefront license in San Bernardino County to foster a new set of professional standards for all businesses entering the emerging medical cannabis industry,” Casas said. “We look forward to making an economic impact.”

Casas praised the Hesperia City Council and staff for their “forward thinking” in passing cannabis regulations and working with various business owners.

He also gave high marks to Administrative Analyst Tina Bulgarelli, Building/Safety Manager Michael Hearn and former senior planner Dave Reno.

“Tina and her team conducted a workshop that highlighted best business practices for new cannabis business owners. I don’t think any other city has shown this kind of support,” Casas said. “Also, Mayor Russ Blewett kept his word when he said he’d support the cannabis business community in Hesperia. He’s a man of his word and he’s got my vote.”

For more information, visit www.mcecdelivery.com.

Reporter Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com, Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruzand Instagram @reneraydelacruz.



By Rene Ray De La Cruz Staff Writer

Posted Feb 21, 2018 at 5:23 PM Updated Feb 21, 2018 at 5:23 PM

HESPERIA — Three cannabis-based businesses have recently cleared hurdles on their way to possible approval in the city’s green zone.

The Hesperia Development Review Committee (DRC) reviewed and approved three proposed cannabis delivery business projects on Wednesday before they were forwarded to the city’s Planning Commission for further review.

Representatives with Blaze Palm, Green Scorpion Organics Company and Medical Cannabis Education Center (MCEC) attended the DRC meeting at City Hall.

The DRC approved Blaze Palm’s proposal to occupy an existing 1,010-square-foot building suite on an approximately 57,000-square-foot lot at 11129 G Ave.

The committee reviewed Blaze Palm’s plan and discussed the project’s security system, entry door card readers, product lockers and insurance policy.

The DRC also discussed the statewide California Cannabis Track-and-Trace system, which will record inventory and movement of cannabis and cannabis-based products through the commercial cannabis supply chain.

The DRC also reviewed and approved MCEC’s proposal to occupy an existing 3,000-square-foot suite at 11114 G Ave.

Rick Casas, a board member and compliance officer for MCEC who attended the meeting, told the Daily Press clearing phase one of the approval process was the hardest part to opening his business.

“The good news is that we passed the vetting process and we’re on our way to tenant improvements,” Casas said. “We look forward to providing the entire High Desert with quality medical cannabis products.”

Green Scorpion’s project, in an existing 1,000-square-foot suite at 17525 Alder St., Unit 43, was also approved.

Tina Bulgarelli, the administrative analyst for the city, told those in attendance that on March 6 the Council will review an amendment to the city’s cannabis regulation as it pertains to insurance, entry doors, employee identification and other requirements within the cannabis business zone.

One cannabis-based, walk-on project included the construction of a 15,000-square-foot building that will be located near an existing buildings at 16666 Smoke Tree St.

A second walk-on project included a proposed business in an existing 1,000-square-foot building located at 17565 Catalpa Street, Suite A.

For more information, visit www.cityofhesperia.us or call 760-947-1000.

Reporter Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com, Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruzand Instagram @reneraydelacruz



By Rene Ray De La Cruz Staff Writer

Posted Dec 31, 2017 at 12:01 AM Updated Dec 31, 2017 at 3:52 PM

VICTORVILLE — New Year’s Day welcomed the cannabis community with a new state law that makes it easier for anyone 21 and over to legally buy and use marijuana-based products in California.

Businesses with a state license and permit issued by a local municipality are now permitted to sell recreational marijuana to all canna-customers with just an ID. That means a doctor’s recommendation is no longer needed.

But for those living in the Victor Valley who want to smoke, toke dab, vape or nibble — they may not be able find a legal dispensary locally where they can purchase cannabis-based goodies.

The Jet Room in Adelanto seems to be the only local dispensary that is close to obtaining state and city permits to operate. The owners of the dispensary unveiled their high-end retail shop to civic and community leaders in December and commented they’d be open at the beginning of the year.

However, the recent transition in ownership of the Adelanto Road facility may invalidate the shop’s permits and force the new owner to re-apply to the state and city.

Dispensaries are banned in Apple Valley, Hesperia and Victorville, and may not be allowed anytime soon based on the stance the Councils of these municipalities have recently taken.

As of Friday morning, the state had issued only 69 licenses for medical retailers and 44 for adult recreational use. Dispensaries, which have been legal in some parts of California, must receive new state permits to continue operating, Bloomberg reported.

Consumers 21 and older can also purchase product legally from delivery services that have obtained state and local permits, but that may also be problematic.

Unless a cannabis dispensary or delivery business obtains the proper permits, “they’ll be flying under the radar” and operating illegally, said delivery owner Coco Castillo, who plans to continue his home-based “Light It Up” business in Oak Hills.

“I hate to admit it, but most of us are going to stay underground — it’s just cheaper that way,” said Castillo, 37, who began his business five years ago. “I have my customers and they’re happy with me, so I’m not going anywhere.”

A survey by the California Growers Association, which represents over 1,000 marijuana businesses in the state, reported that 85 percent of it members are planning to get a license to sell cannabis, with 40 percent of the group saying they’ll go the black market route it they can’t do it legally.

The Bureau of Cannabis Control began issuing temporary licenses for recreational marijuana sales last month. Retailers now need separate licenses to sell both medical and recreational cannabis, with many of new regulations taking effect later in the year.

Castillo said regulations by local and state governments and taxes from the sale of products will drive more people to the black market.

Lisa Johnson, owner of Kushman 420 delivery, told the Daily Press she’s working with the city of Hesperia and state to ensure the building she owns in the city’s Green Zone is compliant.

“With the exception of a few pieces of furniture, my building is totally empty,” Johnson said. “We’re jumping through all the hoops to ensure that our building is ready for our business to operate in the first quarter of 2018.”

Johnson said her “long and expensive road” to compliance involves “filling out a mountain of paperwork” and working with city, state, federal and private entities to become complaint.

Johnson’s checklist includes obtaining special property insurance, making the building ADA compliant, installing a security system, obtaining an EIN number, paving a section of road in front of her property, installing curbs/gutters, setting up payroll and opening an account with a financial institution that deals with the cannabis industry.

Rick Casas, a board member and compliance office for Medical Marijuana Educational Center, said he’s also working with Hesperia to open his delivery business.

“It’s a long process, but it will be worth it for our clients who depend on us,” said Casas, who recently conducted a job fair where he hired 15 employees.

“I’m committed to this industry and to my patients,” Johnson said. “I hope people understand that it takes a lot of dedication and hard work by many in this industry to make a single legal delivery.”

Canna-fans should also be wary of where they light up. State law prohibits the smoking or consuming of cannabis-based products in public, including locations where traditional smoking is allowed.

Those 21 and older are allowed to consume marijuana at home, where they are also permitted to grow up to six marijuana plants per household. Marijuana will be treated like alcohol when it comes to operating a vehicle — no consumption by anyone in the vehicle and no open containers.

The Secretary of State’s Cannabizfile at www.sos.ca.gov is an online portal that includes all information relevant to cannabis-related business filings with the state. Business owners also may obtain information on licensing at the California Cannabis Portal at https://cannabis.ca.gov.

Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com, Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz and Instagram @reneraydelacruz



By Rene Ray De La Cruz Staff Writer

Posted Feb 18, 2018 at 8:00 AM Updated Feb 21, 2018 at 2:23 PM

HESPERIA — The city’s development review committee will discuss the proposed construction of a new restaurant, along with a wave of cannabis-based businesses that plan to plant roots in the city’s green zone.

The three businesses looking to move into Hesperia include Blaze Palm, LLC, Green Scorpion Organics Company and Medical Cannabis Education Center.

Green Scorpion is looking to occupy an existing 1,000-square-foot suite at 17525 Alder St., Unit 43, about 800 feet southwest of Oasis Community Church, which is located on the corner of I Avenue and Alder Street.

Blaze Palm is proposing to occupy an existing 1,010-square-foot building suite on an approximately 57,000-square-foot lot at 11129 G Ave. The property is located near the corner of Eucalyptus Street and I Avenue, and near the Hesperia Unified School District warehouse.

About 400 feet west of the Blaze Palm site, MCEC is looking to occupy an existing 3,000-square-foot suite at 11114 G Ave., which is adjacent to God’s Hand Extended Warehouse

The committee will also review the proposed construction of a two-story 16,850-square-foot restaurant/bar directly across from Civic Center Park on the southwest corner of Juniper Street and Eighth Avenue. The proposal is from Thomas Carpino, the owner of Mama Carpino’s Italian restaurant in Apple Valley.



The Development Review Committee meeting is scheduled at 10 a..m. Wednesday in the Joshua Room at Hesperia City Hall, 9700 Seventh Ave. For more information, visit www.cityofhesperia.us or call 760-947-1000.

Reporter Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com, Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruzand Instagram @reneraydelacruz



By Rene Ray De La Cruz Staff Writer

Posted Oct 18, 2017 at 12:30 PM Updated Oct 18, 2017 at 3:29 PM

HESPERIA — Organizers of the Medical Marijuana Educational Center have scheduled a cannabis-themed job fair this weekend.

The job fair for the High Desert-based collective is scheduled for Saturday at the Courtyard Marriot in Hesperia, where the company will interview job candidates for a new delivery business they plan to open once they obtain a license from the city.

Rick Casas, a board member and compliance office for MMEC, told the Daily Press his team will interview for several positions, including drivers, call center patient advocates, budtenders, and sales and marketing representatives.

“People don’t need to have experience, but it would be beneficial if they understood the effects of medical cannabis and the various strains,” Casas, 50, said. “Job seekers should bring their updated resume with five references and their doctor medical recommendation (marijuana card).”

Applicants are also asked to email their resume to info@mmec420.org, along with an approximate time they plan to attend the job fair.

Casas’ company currently has 15 employees and is looking to double its staff at the collective that currently serves about 4,000 patients annually in the High Desert.

The collective has already secured three locations in the industrial area of Hesperia, between Santa Fe and I avenues. Those sites include two 1,500-square-foot storage facilities and a 3,000-square-foot call center.

Casas said the properties will follow the city’s new cannabis ordinance, which was approved last month. Some of the particulars in the law includes all cannabis business activities conducted indoors, all loading and delivery taking place to the rear of the building, and no retail sales, walk-up services or advertising.

Considered a nonprofit mutual benefit corporation, MMEC will transition into a for-profit collective, and will be renamed the Medical Cannabis Educational Center once they obtain their permit, Casas said.

“In this growing industry, we’re still considered one of the best companies around,” Casas said. “Leafly actually ranked us 12th out of the best cannabis delivery services in the state.”

Leafly ranked MMEC in its “18 Best California Cannabis Delivery Services” report that was published in April. Leafly gave the company high marks for its “convenient morning hours,” daily deals and for its Online Education Program.

The MMEC Job Fair is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Courtyard Marriott, 9619 Mariposa Road in Hesperia.

Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLa Cruz@VVDailyPress.com, Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz and Instagram @reneraydelacruz.



By Rene Ray De La Cruz Staff Writer

April 19, 2017


For patients who have turned to cannabis to relieve their ailments, the thought of having to travel to a dispensary to pick up their medicine may not be very appealing — especially for those suffering from chronic pain or those without access to convenient transportation. Delivery services to the rescue! The convenience of deliverable cannabis has caused the market for these services to boom.

To make your search for quality companies a little easier, we’ve outlined some of the best cannabis delivery services in the state of California below, started with statewide delivery services and then ordering them generally from South to North. Don’t see your favorite delivery service on the list? Tell us about them in the comments!



By Rene Ray De La Cruz Staff Writer

Posted Sep 7, 2017 at 11:14 AM Updated Sep 7, 2017 at 4:48 PM

HESPERIA — The Council officially adopted an ordinance that regulates cannabis delivery and other related business activities within city limits. As the state prepares to issue its own set of marijuana laws for personal and commercial use, the Hesperia City Council approved its own regulations during Tuesday night’s meeting. “I think we took a conservative approach in crafting the ordinance and I believe everyone on both sides of the table is pleased,” Mayor Paul Russ told the Daily Press. “We still have a few components of the ordinance to discuss, such as fees. We’ll come back visit that in a future meeting.” In March, many in the cannabis community shared their excitement when the Council voted to begin the process of crafting the ordinance that would allow mobile dispensaries to operate within city limits. In the ordinance, all adult recreational-related use of cannabis is prohibited, except for what the city cannot prohibit because of state law such as personal growers who can cultivate up to six plants. Highlights of the cannabis ordinance include: Cultivation

    • All outdoor cultivation is prohibited.
    • The six plants permitted under state law must be confined to a locked and secured room or outbuilding, located on the property.
    • Persons conducting indoor cultivation shall register the address of the residence.
    • Indoor cultivators will pay a fee as determined by the Council at a later date.
    • Registration for indoor cultivation shall be renewed annually.
    • Renters must provide written permission by the owner to grow cannabis. Written permission shall also be renewed annually.
Cannabis use
    • All medically related uses of cannabis are prohibited, except for delivery services to medical patients.
    • A doctor’s recommendation for cannabis use must be renewed from a bona fide doctor to be eligible to continue to use medical marijuana under the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act.
Marijuana delivery
    • Delivery services/businesses must be located in the General Industrial Zone and the Limited Manufacturing and General Manufacturing designations.
    • All cannabis business activities must be conducted indoors. All loading and delivery must take place to the rear of the building.
    • Marijuana deliveries must be made to residential addresses and no walk-up services are permitted.
    • As no retail sales are allowed, no display of merchandise is permitted and outward appearance of the business is prohibited.
    • Delivery vehicles may include business name, address and phone number. Vehicles shall not display markings or logos and drivers shall not wear uniforms or dress conspicuously.
Business license regulations, procedures and fees
    • Following the applicant’s approval for a delivery dispensary permit, a business license must also be issued.
    • License applicants must submit information necessary to complete a background check.
    • Applicants must acknowledge the city’s regulations regarding delivery of marijuana and related accessories.
    • Persons who have been cited administratively or criminally in the past for operating an illegal marijuana dispensary within the city will not be granted a license unless all fees have been fully paid.
Required facilities
    • All marijuana facilities will be required to have additional lighting on the property, security cameras, and an alarm system.
    • A ventilation system will be required to prevent odors from infiltrating into neighboring businesses.
    • Marijuana will be required to be unloaded and loaded from the rear of the building, and the building will be required to remain inaccessible to the general public.
    • No outward appearance of the business will be allowed, including off-site advertisement on vehicles, using vehicle wraps, signage, or any other form of advertisement aside from what is allowed sign regulations.
    • Delivery vehicles shall be unmarked and all deliveries will be required to take place at the residence of the marijuana patient.
Taxes
    • Both medical and non-medical marijuana will be subject to a new statewide tax on cultivation, as well as a retail excise tax.
    • Non-medical marijuana may be subject to existing state and local sales taxes, while medical marijuana retail sales will be exempt from state sales taxes.
    • The city may elect to establish new local taxes on both medical and non-medical sales, as well as cultivation. The establishment of a new tax will require an approval process mandated by Proposition 218.
Business Licensing
    • Currently, the city collects a $50 annual business license fee, in addition to an administrative fee of $33. License renewals also require a $50 fee, as well as a $19 administrative fee.
    • The city also collects an annual investigation fee for certain types of businesses. Massage establishments and adult businesses currently pay a $200 fee to cover inspections by fire, building and planning.
    • The city’s fee schedule includes the new application, extension and investigative fees for marijuana businesses, with those fee amounts to be determined.
Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLa Cruz@VVDailyPress.com or on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz.



By Rene Ray De La Cruz Staff Writer

Posted Mar 22, 2017 at 1:11 PM Updated Mar 22, 2017 at 5:48 PM

HESPERIA — Cannabis proponents exchanged celebratory hugs after the City Council voted to begin the process of crafting an ordinance that would allow mobile dispensaries to operate within city limits.

With Mayor Pro Tem Russ Blewett calling the crafting of the ordinance a future “work in progress,” fellow Council members Bill Holland and Rebekah Swanson joined him in voting for city staff to begin hammering out the details of the law that would permit delivery businesses of medical cannabis products in Hesperia.

Councilman Larry Bird was the sole dissenter, saying he understands residents’ need for safe access to medical marijuana, but adding the proposed ordinance does not change the ability for current patients in Hesperia to obtain medical marijuana.

Mayor Paul Russ could not make Tuesday’s meeting because of an illness, according to Blewett.

Holland, said “at the very least” the Council should move toward an ordinance that allows a mobile service to deliver medicinal marijuana, adding “at the same time, as of this moment, ban all the other license types.”

Holland said the Council’s ban would include some 19 permits associated with the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, a recreational marijuana legalization initiative that was approved by California voters in November.

Several members of the audience agreed with the Council’s decisions and claimed the existence of illegal delivery services currently operating in Hesperia. Holland added that the new ordinance would help “clean up” non-permitted cannabis activity within the city.

The Council also agreed to consider regulating outdoor grows after Blewett said many residents have complained of neighbors illegally growing large amounts of cannabis that emit a foul odor.

Resident Kim Jones told the Council that besides the odor of marijuana, she’s concerned that some of the plants may encroach on her property where her animals could consume the plants and become ill.

The Council agreed to pursue the direction of Hesperia Senior Planner Dave Reno, who said staff requires direction to craft a taxation, fee and business license scheme for the proposed ordinance.

During the meeting, the Council frequently invited Los Angeles Attorney Pamela Epstein, who was seated in the audience, to the podium to weigh in on several cannabis-related issues, including the various state marijuana laws coming in January as they pertain to Hesperia.

“We’re excited by the Council’s decision that’s been a year in the making,” Epstein told the Daily Press. “A year ago, we got the complete ban (of cannabis activity) off the consent calendar.”

Epstein said this is the first and very important step in how “we engage in the future of the rollout of the program and the ordinance language itself.”

“I’m excited to continue to work with the city and bring safe and affordable medical cannabis to its community,” Epstein said. “It’s wonderful to work with a Council that is willing to work with its residents and sees the overall big picture.”

Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLa Cruz@VVDailyPress.com or on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz.



By Rene Ray De La Cruz Staff Writer

Posted Jan 20, 2017 at 8:17 AM Updated Jan 20, 2017 at 4:30 PM

HESPERIA — Faced with the daunting task of reviewing nearly two dozen separate permits for cannabis activity, the City Council here agreed to move Tuesday’s agenda item to March.

The Council was set to discuss an ordinance regarding various types of commercial marijuana activities that may be permitted in the city after Jan. 1, 2018, when the state will begin issuing commercial licenses for marijuana-based businesses.

Hesperia Senior Planner Dave Reno told the Council the review of 19 permits “could conceivably” turn into the review of 38 permits as each one is divided into medical and recreational cannabis activity.

The Council will meet on March 21 to begin the review process, which will also include reviewing applicable city taxes or fees that must be adopted along with the permits.

City Manager Nils Bentsen told the Council there is no immediate urgency to pass the cannabis ordinance, but the ordinance will pass by default if the Council does not take action.

Mayor Paul Russ and the Council agreed that reviewing, defining and passing the ordinance should not be placed on the back burner, but should be discussed within 90 days.

The Council also agreed that new members Larry Bird and Rebekah Swanson, who were both sworn in last month, need some time to familiarize themselves with the cannabis issue that’s appeared before the Council numerous times.

During the March meeting, the Council will also continue last year’s discussion on whether Hesperia should prohibit outdoor personal cultivation and/or regulate indoor personal cultivation of cannabis.

Last March, medical marijuana patients and many in the cannabis industry filled City Hall as they pleaded with the Council not to prohibit the cultivation, manufacturing and mobile dispensing of medical marijuana.

In a surprise move that pleased the crowd, the Council agreed then to revisit the proposed ordinance. They also told the crowded chamber how the city needed to regulate the substance, citing years of “issues” with dozens of illegally-run dispensaries that were the scene of shootings, prostitution and other crime.

During Tuesday’s meeting, only a handful of residents shared their stories with the Council on how the use of medical marijuana has helped them or a family member with a variety of medical issues including seizures, pain relief, cancer symptoms and more.

Mayor Pro Tem Russ Blewett told the crowd he’ll stick to his “promise” of allowing the delivery of medical marijuana, saying, “Everything else I’ll oppose.”

Blewett said he changed his mind about the delivery of cannabis last year after an 84-year-old woman told the Council she has to drive across town to purchase marijuana for her ailing 88-year-old husband.

“An 84-year-old woman shouldn’t be on the road,” said Blewett, as the audience chuckled and mumbled their agreement.

Blewett also voiced his concern about patients obtaining medical marijuana cards from “so-called” physicians and by “unreputable means.” He added that the number of dispensaries that operated illegally in the city were run by “slimy scumbags who broke federal, state and local laws.”

Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLa Cruz@VVDailyPress.com or on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz.


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