The Cookies chain of cannabis dispensaries says its marketing efforts and the company name have been misunderstood and misrepresented by local officials who have criticized the company, saying it targets young people.
The chain, which operates stores in La Mesa and Mission Valley, was granted permission in June to open a third store in Sorrento Valley.
Prior to this approval, the San Diego Planning Commission and the Torrey Pines Community Planning Group said Cookies targets underage customers with its name and Sesame Street-style graphics that evoke the Cookie Monster character.
A company official said in an interview last week that the channel absolutely does not target minors, young people, explaining that the name Cookies does not focus on real cookies but on connecting customers with the right strain of cannabis for them.
Similar to cookies made in many varieties, company officials say, cannabis comes in many different strains and users need to find the strain that is affecting their bodies in the precise way they want.
“The Cookies name has a long heritage,” said Crystal Millican, vice president of retail for the 13-year-old chain based in Northern California. “The whole experience was tailored to the client. We try to pair them one-on-one with a budtender as often as possible.
Local critics argue that the name, font and light blue coloring used by Cookies are all attempts at marketing to children.
“I hate the name,” said Planning Commissioner James Whalen, who voted to approve the new dispensary. “I think it is misleading to say that it is not attractive to young people.
Millican said the company, which operates 40 dispensaries in multiple states, said it was virtually impossible to sell to minors, as California requires full-time security guards to verify the identities of customers in all locations. dispensaries.
The minimum age to purchase recreational marijuana in California is 21. The minimum age for medical marijuana, which requires a medical prescription, is 18 in this state.
Millican said the company uses a shade of light blue in its graphics and signage because that color has the same calming effect on people as cannabis.
“We don’t market anyone other than our customers and our patients,” she said. “We obviously hear the concerns, and we will work to convince any neighborhood association. “
Millican said Cookies is a model company in many ways, including its commitment to restorative justice and progressive drug policy.
The company will launch a “Cookie University” in Humboldt County next year to help prepare people for career paths in the cannabis industry. The program will recruit people who face barriers to entering the industry and those who have been harmed by the enforcement of previous cannabis laws, she said.
This matches a recent proposal by San Diego officials to create a cannabis equity program in the city. This program would use cannabis tax revenues to help bring low-income people and minorities into the thriving legal industry.
Cookies was founded in 2008 by Gilbert Anthony Milam Jr. and Jai “Jigga” Chang. Milam, who is also a Bay Area rapper, is called Berner.
When San Diego officials initially objected to the name Cookies, the company offered to use a capital C logo with a plus sign instead. But the San Diego Cannabis Ordinance bans logos outside of businesses, allowing only letters.
The Planning Commission voted 5-1 in June to approve the new Cookies dispensary in the Sorrento Valley, despite concerns expressed by its members. Commissioners said their decisions should be based on zoning compatibility – not subjective opinions about a business name.
The first approved Cookies dispensary in the city is on Mission Center Court, an uncrowded cul-de-sac on Mission Center Road.
Commissioner Whalen said he was frustrated the city had given final approval to the dispensary in 2017 under a different name, noting that the name was later changed to Cookies.
Another Cookies is open at La Mesa. Millican said that with a third opening soon, the company is unlikely to open more dispensaries in San Diego anytime soon.
“We don’t want to saturate San Diego County too much,” she said.