Sean McDermott and his son, Corey, will be opening the first medical marijuana shop in La Mesa in just a few weeks. Now, the East County natives also will be opening the first medical cannabis collective in Lemon Grove.
The Lemon Grove City Council voted 4-0 on June 19 to issue a conditional-use permit to the McDermotts to open a store at 6470 Federal Blvd. Councilman Matt Mendoza was absent because of a work conflict.
Sean McDermott said he expects the 960-square-foot La Mesa store at 8155 Center St. to open in mid-July and the 41,711-square-foot Lemon Grove store to open before November.
“It’s been a long process; I’m almost roommates with (Development Services Director David Devries),” the elder McDermott joked. “I know it hasn’t been easy. I’m happy to be here right now. We have a world-class project here, something the city can be proud of, something the residents will be happy with, something the patient base surrounding this (store) will be appreciative of.”
Unlike other proposed dispensaries that were turned down because they were too close to parks, schools and daycare centers, the McDermotts in December 2016 chose a building in a light-industrial zoning district for their business.
City Councilman Jerry Jones, a racing aficionado, told the McDermotts that their building used to house Lenco Racing Transmissions, which started engineering and building drag racing transmissions in Lemon Grove in 1973 before moving to Ontario in 2016.
In November 2016, Lemon Grove voters passed Proposition V, requiring the city to update municipal codes and create a permit process. The measure authorizes and regulates dispensaries, and the cultivating and manufacturing of medical marijuana.
In addition to meeting all of Lemon Grove’s criteria to open a medical marijuana store, the McDermotts were told they would need to enter into a five-year agreement to pay $636,000 to Lemon Grove to cover city-required compliance needs in the area.
That number broke down to $330,000 for street improvements, $180,000 for weed abatement and $126,000 for utility undergrounding. The city wanted the money paid quarterly over the course of five years. They agreed that the McDermotts could pay $50,000 the first year, $75,000 the second year, $100,000 the third year, and so on, incrementally, until the $636,000 was paid in full.
The McDermotts’ lawyer, S. Wayne Rosenbaum, argued that the McDermotts should only have to pay $500,000 for the improvements and other requirements as estimated through their calculations, which were different from Lemon Grove’s. The City Council disagreed. Because the public hearing was over, McDermott did not get to weigh in on the extra $136,000 that would be required.
McDermott told the City Council he had already invested $700,000 on startup costs, including more than $10,000 in city fees.
“It was very unfair,” McDermott said of the city fees. “I would have liked another year or two to pay for it. They feel that these stores are cash registers. But somebody is going to have to pay.”
He said it bothered him that “every financial problem for the city is going to be resolved on the back of the medical marijuana patient.”
Like the collective in La Mesa, the Federal Boulevard store will be called “The Grove.” A dispensary only, the store will not be growing or manufacturing the drug. No on-site consumption will be allowed, the city said.
The Grove will sell everything from edibles, such as pot-infused Gummi bears, to marijuana flowers to oils and tinctures. It will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week. Patients interested in buying marijuana at the store must have a medical marijuana card.
The City Council nixed part of the proposed signage for The Grove that showed a green marijuana leaf in place of the “V.”