How business is changing as America’s marijuana epicenter goes legal

How business is changing as America's marijuana epicenter goes legal

In the months since the new ordinance passed, “extraction alley” has been flooded by pot-related entities, which, in some cases, have displaced longtime Eureka businesses. Adam Dick is a co-owner of Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate, one of the last remaining non-cannabis businesses in the area. Dick still has two years left on his lease at 65 cents a square foot. But neighboring businesses, including a sports supply company, an auto repair shop, and a metal recycling facility, have been evicted or priced out, as buildings in the zone are now renting for as much as $3.50 a square foot.

“I think initially when we were in this building we thought, okay, we’ll stay here for a long time, and then maybe we would expand into another warehouse, and kind of be able to scale the size of our business that way,” Dick said. “But now with rents being so high in this area, now I think we’re feeling a little bit landlocked.”

He is concerned that when his lease is up, his chocolate company may be forced to relocate, possibly out of Eureka entirely. “It’s certainly something that keeps us up at night.”

Just down Route 101 from Eureka, the quiet town of Fortuna is taking a different approach to marijuana. In May 2017, the Fortuna City Council drafted an ordinance to bar commercial cannabis businesses within the city limits.

Erin Dunn, CEO of Fortuna’s Chamber of Commerce, told a local radio station: “It feels like our soul has been lost in an honest attempt to create a business-like environment for the pot growing industry. We should stop and regroup, but the tidal wave of cannabis is overtaking us, and we are fighting the rising tide with wading boots and umbrellas. We are going to get soaked.”

But even in conservative Fortuna, which is positioning itself as a “sanctuary city from cannabis,” the economic clout of marijuana is hard to ignore.