Cookies: Name of new cannabis dispensary in Northern California has many concerned – Silicon Valley

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There’s a new building at the corner of Talmage Road and South State Street that many Ukiah residents feel is much more attractive than the structures it replaced. However, some also feel that the name of the new business, “Cookies,” and its signs are much too attractive to minors, given that it sells marijuana.
“I think that sign needs to be re-thought,” said James Whittaker, addressing the Ukiah City Council during its Sept. 7 meeting, describing the color, name and imagery used by the business as evoking the Sesame Street character “The Cookie Monster,” which he described as “straight marketing to kids. Somebody really needs to take that seriously.”
When asked last week if city planners were aware of the name of the dispensary and what exactly the signs would look like at the time the business permit was approved, Community Development Director Craig Schlatter explained in an email that: “No City Staff, Planning Commissioners, or Design Review Board members were aware of the proposed name or signage at the time of the dispensary’s use permit review and approval. Instead, generic/placeholder signage was presented by the applicant. Staff was not made aware of the Cookies name until a building and sign permit were submitted on May 26, 2022. The signage was ministerially approved by the department in June 2022.”
When asked if the sign could be changed now, and if so, what the process for that would be, Schlatter said that “at this stage, the signage conforms to the objective signage criteria in Ukiah City Code,”  but that “all approved use permits for cannabis dispensaries are subject to a one-year renewal approved by the Zoning Administrator.”
During the review of the permit, Schlatter said he, in his capacity as Zoning Administrator for the city, “will evaluate the business for appropriateness and conformance with the required Use Permit Findings,” which include: (G) That…no significant nuisance issues or problems are anticipated or have resulted from dispensary operations; (N) That the applicant has not knowingly made a false statement of material fact or has knowingly omitted to state a material fact in the application for a permit; (P) That the applicant has not engaged in unlawful, fraudulent, unfair, or deceptive business acts or practices.”
Schlatter also pointed out that “the California Bureau of Cannabis Control is the regulator of adult-use cannabis and consequently regulates advertising/signage of cannabis businesses. Although BCC’s website notes that ‘All advertising and promoting of commercial cannabis must not use objects, such as toys, inflatables, movie display, depiction, or image designed in any manner likely to be appealing to minors or anyone under 21 years of age,’ enforcement of such requirements is ultimately the responsibility of the BCC.”
An inquiry was sent to the state Department of Cannabis Control regarding whether the Cookies sign and name would qualify as using “objects or image designed in any manner likely to be appealing to minors or anyone under 21 years of age,” but an official response was not received prior to press time.
Later Thursday afternoon, representatives from the Department of Cannabis Control sent this official response: “The department reviews complaints, including ones of this nature, on a case-by-case basis considering all facts and circumstances of the particular situation. Information related to concerns about noncompliance with regulatory requirements should be submitted through the department’s complaint system. The department does not comment on ongoing investigations.”
When asked to respond to concerns that their signage might be unduly targeting minors, Kim Barron, director of Marketing & PR for Cookies, said in an email that “the Cookies name originated from its namesake debut strain in 2008. At that time, the color palette was intentionally selected as a standout, approachable color… The same philosophy carries through the Cookies brand identity and artwork, which has been designed to have an adult appreciation and appeal, visually expressing the qualities of the plant and products for adult consumers to quickly understand when purchasing cannabis from a licensed dispensary. Cookies uses a shade of light blue in its graphics and signage because that color has the same calming effect on people as cannabis.”
Barron also noted that “Cookies takes regulatory requirements seriously and manages compliance standards across the entire operation from cultivation, manufacturing, packaging, marketing, sales, distribution and retail. In order to enter any of our stores in California, security guards are required to check customer’s identification to ensure they are of legal age, which we take very seriously.”
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