The county's first licensed medical cannabis dispensary is open for business. – Monterey County Weekly

With a giant wall-sized black-and-white photo mural of Bixby Bridge, polished concrete floors, dark wood paneling and leather furniture, the waiting room at Big Sur Canna+Botanicals looks more like a trendy wine bar or chic art gallery. Several ethereal contemporary artworks by a local artist hang on the walls.

The comparisons end there. At the security check-in, a man neatly dressed in a sports jacket and slacks at a wood-paneled podium checks customers’ medical marijuana cards and identification. From there customers are greeted by receptionists, and finally, are invited to step through a door to the dispensary. The room features a long display case staffed by cannabis consultants.

This is the new face of the cannabis retail business, says co-owner Aram Stoney. Big Sur Canna+Botanicals, situated in the Carmel Rancho Shopping Center, caters to a crowd of mostly baby boomers. It’s the first brick-and-mortar store for Stoney and partner John DeFloria, who have operated mostly as a delivery business since 2014. (Deliveries are on hold as they focus on launching the store.)

It’s also the first cannabis shop to successfully navigate Monterey County’s new licensing process after the Board of Supervisors placed a moratorium on issuing cannabis-related business licenses in 2015. Last December, Stoney and DeFloria were first in line to apply. Stoney says both they and county planners were “learning together” as they navigated the new process. “We did everything we were asked, and beyond that,” he says.

Before they were issued the business license on Sept. 1, they secured a use permit from the Monterey County Planning Commission. Commissioners unanimously approved the permit on June 14, after more than a dozen residents spoke in favor of Big Sur Canna+Botanicals opening a storefront.

According to county planners, there are 15 dispensary applicants seeking approval of land-use permits. (If those

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