Business / Economy

Appeal to resubmit permit to manufacture medical cannabis in Hollister for children fails

Previously denied permits to cultivate, manufacture and dispense cannabis, owner of 817 Industrial Drive property appeals to resubmit for manufacturing medical cannabis for children. His attempt fails.

Eric Hecht, owner of the 817 Industrial Drive property that had previously been denied a number of cannabis permits, came back to Hollister City Council to appeal Jan. 16. He was hoping for a better outcome this time probably because the building next door at 807 Industrial Drive had just been permitted to manufacture cannabis products.

When both Council members Karson Klauer and Jim Gillio recused themselves, leaving only members Ray Friend, Mickie Luna and Mayor Ignacio Velazquez left to hear his appeal, his fate was sealed. He not only did not get a permit, his appeal was dismissed without even a motion or a single vote.

As it turned out Gillio was the deciding factor. He did not recuse himself for the approval of the 807 property and when the mayor took his usual stand against any cannabis operations on Industrial Drive. Gillio’s vote, along with Friend’s and Luna’s, landed the prized permit for the applicant, Euphoric Life, LC

“The property (817 Industrial Drive) I recused myself from originally was trying to be a dispensary,” Gillio told BenitoLink in a text message afterward. “On the list of people applying for dispensaries were two companies I recognized as being customers of my business. One was Scott McPhail and the other was Jose Rodriguez.”

Gillio said the city attorney advised him to stay clear of any dispensary votes because there would only be two permitted within city limits.

“My vote could theoretically benefit a customer of my business,” he texted.

As it turned out, his not voting had just the opposite effect. When Gillio, along with Klauer, recused himself for the 817 property, the numbers were already stacked against Hecht and McPhail, but that didn’t stop Hecht from trying to make their case. He had previously attempted to obtain permits to cultivate, manufacture and dispense cannabis. This time he asked the council to reconsider bringing only his request for a nonprofit manufacturing permit and place it on the agenda for a vote.

In an attempt to possibly sway the council, he told them of his efforts to mend fences between his business and others on Industrial Drive that had fiercely opposed any cannabis-related businesses and recently aligning himself with a nonprofit for children.

“For the past six months I’ve developed a relationship with Tracy Ryan, who is CEO of Cannakids, a California-based cooperative whose purpose is advancing treatment of pediatric cancer with medical cannabis derivatives such as CBD,” he said. “Tracy’s own daughter suffers from brain cancer and used cannabis extracts in conjunction with chemotherapy to treat her illness.”

He told the council that CBD has been successful it treating children with epilepsy and Cannakids is at the forefront of extending the research in ways medical cannabis can be used to treat children.

“The extracts our facility will produce are the same derivatives that found promising results in preliminary tests with Cannakids,” he said. “As part of my team, I’m working with a biological engineer, Travis Joseph Mayor, who has multiple years of experience in stem cell and cancer research at major research institutions.”

Hecht read a letter from Ryan to the council that stated his company is one of the first sponsors of her organization’s mission and through their partnership they can help children and their families. He also told them he has recently been committing himself to helping the community, as well as advocating the participation of young adults at Gavilan College in providing them employment opportunities in the cannabis industry, working in security, extractors, accounting, packing and other positions. He said he will be attending the next job fair in Hollister to solicit employees for his facility. He also said he is working with a local contractor to install keycard entrance so only verified individuals can access the building.

“By only doing manufacturing, there will be a zero imprint in the community,” he said. “Proceeds from our business will be directed to select local charities, like Woman’s Club of Hollister, which provides opportunities for disadvantage women. I implore you to reconsider my application only for manufacturing.”

Without giving any reason, Velazquez said he could not support approving the appeal. With that, Friend said there was no point even voting, so for a lack of a motion the appeal would not be placed on the agenda of a future meeting.

“Eric needs all three remaining members to support it,” Bill Avera told BenitoLink by email. “At some point, Ray or Mickie can direct me to place it on an agenda to vote affirmative to approve any operation at that location.”

Primarily because of Gillio having to recuse himself because of McPhail’s association with the company, Avera commented that one possible solution that might assure Hecht receiving an approval for a manufacturing permit would be if the company was reorganized without McPhail. Otherwise, with only three members, who must all vote affirmative, it was unlikely that would happen.

As of now, the building, which was purchased for more than $2 million in anticipation of receiving permits, is on the market once again.

John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a freelance photojournalist with additional experience as a copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter, and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer, having worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John worked as a scriptwriting consultant, and his own script, "God's Club," was produced and released in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime, which are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: [email protected]