The inside of MexCal Cannabis Factory in Calexico is shown May 4. The legal pot shop is the first retail storefront with an onsite consumption lounge opened in the city of Calexico. The business opened in March and has largely been quiet as social distancing and the pandemic have been in full effect. Cannabis businesses in California were deemed essential businesses by Gov. Gavin Newsom. | CORISSA IBARRA PHOTOS
CALEXICO — On the days MexCal Cannabis Factory operations manager Veena Voravudhi is in, so is her 10-pound Yorkie-poodle mix, “Mochi,” cuddling up to guests seated in the shop’s lobby area, waiting for a “bud tender” to help with a new discovery or a little of the usual.
“We put him in a cannabis bandana, and he runs around and greets people. He loves to be petted. He’s our little ambassador dog,” said the San Diego County resident, who arrives in Calexico three to four times a week to run the city’s first open retail cannabis storefront.
Although MexCal Factory has been open for several months, a low-key grand-opening event in March and a worldwide pandemic some might have heard of has kept tell of the shop relatively quiet.
“We feel honored and humbled to be here … we’re dedicated to bringing wellness to the Valley,” Voravudhi said during an April 30 interview. “It’s been great to get to know our community. … We’re learning about our customers and embracing our community.”
Taking their place alongside hospitals and “other medical facilities” in the state, yes, California’s legal pot shops are “essential businesses,” deemed so by Gov. Gavin Newsom just hours after he announced his intention to lock down the state with mandatory stay-at-home orders and nonessential business closures on March 21.
Since then, with the exception of a few poorly timed and confusing interventions by local police, MexCal Factory has been open, strictly adhering to physical-distancing protocols and arguably operating at half speed of what its city and state permits allow, including on-site consumption.
MexCal isn’t the city’s first sanctioned cannabis business to open; that distinction goes to Trinity 341, a manufacturing facility that produced cannabis-infused vape cartridges and was loosely tied to MexCal Factory early on but has since reportedly ceased operations in Calexico. MexCal is now operated by Calexico Distribution Co., also formally tied to Trinity 341 but now under a new partnership, with new owners out of the Los Angeles area.
The first retail business to open in Calexico was Supreme Greens in January, but it’s a delivery-only business. Also, Valley Greens, another delivery-only operation, and a cannabis-testing firm, Imperial Valley Environmental Laboratory Inc., have also since opened in the city’s Cannabis Overlay Zone, a largely industrial area of northern Calexico set aside for pot business. (The lab is actually in downtown Calexico, an allowable exception.)But rest assured, MexCal Factory, for all intents and purposes, is “the first” for the city, a physical location where customers can come in, sit down, order recreational cannabis products that range from “flowers,” the smokable bud of the marijuana plant, to “edibles,” THC- and cannabis-infused foods and beverages, and other assorted high-inducing products.
“To be the first of anything is always a good thing,” Calexico Mayor Bill Hodge said of MexCal Factory’s opening in the city. “Not to be too critical, but Calexico, as fast as we were to initiate and proceed with cannabis businesses in the city, we have lagged a little bit.”
But it’s better late than never, the mayor said, as the city anticipates sales and cannabis tax revenue to come from a robust recreational cannabis industry in the city.
Published: May 07. 2020
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News