Long Beach City Clerk Monique de la Garza picks a ping pong ball from the machine during the medical marijuana dispensary lottery September 28. Photo: Jason Ruiz
Dozens of applicants patiently stood in the foyer of Long Beach City Hall Thursday morning as they waited to clear a security checkpoint and enter the council chambers where city staff awaited them behind a city branded lottery machine that would determine the last 10 prospective business operators for medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.
While the amount of money at stake was not comparable to a Powerball drawing, there is plenty of potential revenue to be made by business owners in Long Beach and that was illustrated by the dozens of applicants vying for the remaining 10 remaining licenses.
In total, 21 locations fell outside buffer zones attached to the measure voted into law by Long Beach residents last November, but only 10 lucky applicants would move forward.
But more than that, this lottery sought to also provide a sense of closure for an industry that has lobbied and fought for a return to the city since it was banned in February 2012.
One by one Long Beach City Clerk Monique de la Garza loaded the ping pong balls into the lottery machine and the air stream sucked up the winning balls into a tube where de la Garza picked them up and revealed the numbers attached to them to those seated inside the city council chambers.
“Number three,” de la Garza announced.
That meant that the location at 1365 W. Pacific Coast Highway, applied for by DBO Investments I, LLC moves on with the application process.
“Number one,” de la Garza continued.
George Pinto’s application for the location at 1319 W. 14th Street also moved on.
Round one of the lottery determined which addresses would move on with each of the 21 ping pong balls announced being subject to a real-time map displayed by de la Garza and Assistant City Manager Ajay Kolluri that showed whether or not they conflicted with the 1,000-foot buffer zones of already approved dispensary applications or previously pulled ping-pong balls.
Those unlucky applicants that conflicted with buffer zones were pushed to the second round of the lottery where the order of the “pending ineligible list” would be determined. Those on the pending ineligible list could potentially still be in line to open up shop in Long Beach if those that won the lottery Thursday morning do not follow through with their application process or run into other issues.
As Kolluri explained, while the lottery did identify winners Thursday, they're not a slam-dunk to actually open up in the city.
“DOJ [Department of Justice] and FBI background investigations and secondly their ability to submit building plans that are up to code and actually construct up to code,” said Kollurri, explaining potential roadblocks for the lottery winners. “they have to have those plans inspected, we have to inspect the facilities themselves…so, if they're unable to get a license for one of those reasons, we have this back-up list.”
Also decided in the second round of the lottery were those locations that had competing applications. The potential dispensaries at three locations had a total of 26 applicants whose fates were still up in the air, so to speak.
Again, the first selected ping pong balls would determine which application would move forward with the remaining queue determining the order in which the pending ineligible applications would step in should something happen with the winning balls.
The suspense was short lived as it only took six pulls by de la Garza to identify the applications that would move forward. The winners of this second round were the Ryan Cameron Rayburn Collective, the Ryan Burns Collective and CDAC Cherry Inc.
This is the second lottery that the city has held to determine medical marijuana operators with the first being held in 2010 prior to the ban. In that lottery, the ping pong balls did not match up with the previous machine used by the city leading to former city clerk Larry Herrera having to manually mix the balls in a bin and pull them out by hand.
A map showing the 10 locations that advanced past Thursday morning's lottery.
Today went much smoother.
“We were informed by the last lottery experience,” Kolluri said. “We were much more systematic in terms of how we went about it. Testing the machine, making sure the whole process worked. It might have ended up being a little boring because of that but it’s just the way that we did it.”