HANFORD – Out with cotton and in with cannabis?
California-based Genezen LLC wants to buy or lease the sprawling 1.6 million square-foot warehouse facility operated by Calcot at 10210 Idaho Ave. in south Hanford.
The site includes 48 sheet-metal-sided warehouse buildings.
With the decline in cotton acreage in both states over the last two decades, the cooperative's Hanford facility, which was once nearly full, has fallen on lean times.
Genezen is proposing a medical cannabis "campus" at the site, with multiple, separate cannabis businesses operating under Genezen's umbrella, according to Genezen spokeswoman Randi Knott.
Knott said Genezen's initial idea is to occupy 18 of the buildings with its own business operations, then lease or sub-lease the remaining 30 buildings to other entities.
Knott said Genezen has paid the city of Hanford $50,000 to help offset the cost of creating a new ordinance that will allow for medical cannabis industrial businesses to locate in Hanford's heavy-industry zone, an area mostly south of Houston Avenue.
Hanford's current ordinance doesn't allow for medical cannabis operations in city limits.
The new ordinance, which city officials have been working on for weeks in collaboration with a paid consultant after getting a green light from the City Council to move forward, is slated to go before the council Wednesday night for a vote.
The Genezen proposal remains in the conceptual stage, according to Hanford Community Development Director Darlene Mata.
If the council approves the new ordinance, Mata said Genezen would have to submit a formal proposal as part of an application for an operating permit.
Knott said Genezen is in escrow on the Calcot property.
Genezen's proposal resembles an idea pitched last year to the council by Purple Heart Patient Center, an Oakland-based medical cannabis dispensary that wanted to come to the Hanford Business Park, better known as the former Pirelli tire plant.
Purple Heart has since withdrawn its Hanford proposal.
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Council members expressed a lot of skepticism toward the Purple Heart concept.
A key concern was how to maintain security accountability for all the sub-entities that would be operating under Purple Heart's umbrella.
Hanford Police Chief Parker Sever said local officials are writing rules into the proposed ordinance that would require each sub-entity to go through the full permitting process just like Genezen.
"Each one would have to have the same security requirements," Sever said.
Knott said she spoke to council members individually about Genezen's proposal. She said they were "very receptive."
One key question casting a shadow over Genezen's concept is how many medical cannabis business permits the city will make available initially if the new ordinance is approved.
Council members have talked about limiting it to a small number so that the city can carefully monitor the situation to make sure it's going OK.
Another medical cannabis operation, San Jose-based Caliva, has already proposed to apply for at least one of the permits.
Caliva, which already has a facility operating in San Jose, is vertically integrated, meaning all parts of the business, from cultivation to manufacturing to testing and packaging, is owned and operated by Caliva.
Knott said if Hanford initially offers five permits or less, it "would be a problem" for Genezen's business model.
Mata said discussions are still underway about what the final number will be.
Calcot spokesman Mark Bagby said he wasn't familiar with the actual property negotiations going on with Genezen.
He said that Calcot is not currently storing any of its cotton at the Hanford facility. Calcot has additional warehouse space in Bakersfield and Glendale, Arizona.
Bagby said some of the Hanford site is being leased out to other businesses, such as J.G. Boswell Co., for storage space.
Bagby said Calcot's board of directors has "expressed an interest in selling the entire property."