A process that came to public notice last July is finally blossoming locally, as two cannabis facilities are coming online in Globe.
Nirvana Center Dispensary opened at noon on Monday at the former site of the Green Panda Dispensary on Broad Street and the grow facility at the old bowling alley behind Holiday Inn on Ash Street should be in operation soon, bringing a growing and lucrative industry to Globe.
The new dispensary is operated by Yavapai Herbal Services, Inc. doing business as Nirvana Center Dispensary. Owners of Nirvana, Sarah Warraich and her father-in-law, possess two of the original dispensary licenses handed out by the state.
Originally licensed in Cottonwood, Warraich owns a dispensary in Prescott Valley and is opening a third in Michigan.
When a competitor opened in Cottonwood, that operation moved to Glendale, but problems with a landlord led Warraich to look for another rural location. A friend told her about Globe, so they looked into the possibility and found it was doable.
“We’re really a mom and pop store, even though we have a lot of locations: it’s just me and my father-in-law,” she said. “We screen our stuff and sell good products and good medicine. We want to be part of the community and Globe has welcomed us with open arms.”
The process was relatively easy for Nirvana. The corporation is in good graces with the state and the Green Panda site was already zoned for a dispensary, due to a previous council’s foresight.
“Zoning codes are specific to [cannabis] and the town gets to pick where it gets zoned,” Director of Development Services Chris Collopy said. “A lot of towns put them in industrial zones to keep them out of sight, but when we originally looked at this, then city manager/attorney thought it would be a good idea to put them where we can see them, so we thought, ‘what better location than right across from the police station and fire department?’”
The only approval remaining for Nirvana is signage, which must go through the Historic Preservation Commission. Warraich said the logo would include a lotus flower, “because it represents coming from the bottom and continuing to grow,” she said. “And we’re going to keep growing.”
The abrupt shuttering of the Green Panda last April left a void for medical cannabis patients, particularly those with limited abilities to travel to the Valley for medicine. It also opened up the possibility for unregulated growing, as Arizona statutes allow anyone with an Arizona Department of Health Services medical cannabis authorization to grow up to 12 plants if there is not access to a facility within 25 miles.
With the opening of Nirvana, the state will contact those with cannabis cards to let them know they are no longer legally able to grow their own medicine.
“It is unfortunate for those who wish to grow their own, but it is out of the city’s hands,” Globe City Manager Paul Jepson said.
The local cannabis industry was resurrected in July 2018 — shortly after the Panda closed — when Valley grower Eli Harding received approval from the planning commission for his facility.
The inside of the old bowling alley on Ash Street is slowly transforming into a state-licensed grow facility. Photo by David Abbott.
At the time, the city also revised Zoning Code 14-5-19-A-5 to allow more than one cannabis-related business within the city limits to allow a dispensary to open as well.
The grow facility will have no signage or retail space and must abide by strict state regulations that are tougher than those surrounding the alcohol industry.
Harding has managed two grow facilities in the Valley, one a 60,000 square-foot operation in El Mirage and another an 80,000 square-foot operation in Phoenix.
The Globe facility will be 22,000 square feet in total with 6,000 used to grow product. The majority of the space will be devoted to state-mandated security as well as offices, air cleaners and other non-growing aspects of the business, including a kitchen for manufacturing edible product.
Stringent state regulations ensure the entire project is regulated “to the gram.”
Security includes cameras in every room and armed guards 24 hours a day, seven days per week. The building is going to be completely blocked from public view with a wall that is already built and Harding said the landscaping would be done in the very near future.
Air scrubbers and an on-site wastewater system will keep odors from bothering the neighbors and pre-treat water before it goes into the Globe wastewater treatment system.
The business will employ up to 10 people, including security staff, with more part-time jobs available during harvest. All employees at the facility must pass background checks and drug screenings as part of their employment.
“We expect to have our state inspections complete by the end of the month,” Harding said last week. “From that point to harvest will be about three months. We will be able to open our kitchen once we get the state inspection on the remodel.”
He added that his interactions with neighbors and other community members have been extremely positive and he plans on hosting an open house once the facility is up and running.
“We haven’t heard anything negative: the neighbors are impressed with the progress,” Harding said. “A lot of the old-timers who used to bowl or work at the lanes stop by to check out the work.”
Harding tried to save as much historic material and memorabilia as possible, but the state required the facility to be completely repainted, taking out murals on the walls that were painted decades ago.
But a lot of building material will be from the historic bowling lanes.
“We’re repurposing the material we took from the lanes to make office desks and other accoutrement in the facility,” Harding said. “We care about the history of Globe and want to become a positive part of the community.”
Medical cannabis has been an issue since 1996, when 65 percent of Arizona voters approved Proposition 200, but it was almost immediately repealed by state legislators. In 1998, voters chose to overturn the repeal with Prop 300, but conflicts with federal law made the provision ineffectual.
In 2002, Prop 203 failed with 42.7 percent of the vote.
Prop 203 returned in 2010 and squeaked in by a 50.7 percent vote and in 2016 Prop 205, intended to legalize the recreational use of cannabis, failed with 48.7 percent of the vote.
General Manager Mark Baker, pictured behind the counter on opening day, at the Nirvana Dispensary on Broad Street, in downtown Globe. Baker said the dispensary is raising funds for equipment for K-9s with the Globe Police and Fire Departments.
The wall surrounding the cannabis grow facility in eastern Globe, combined with soon-to-be installed landscaping, will keep the business out of the public eye. By David Abbott.