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At least two more cannabis operations are slated to open in Lompoc this year, including the city’s second retail dispensary and what could be the first testing lab in Santa Barbara County.

Lompoc officials this past week approved three more commercial cannabis applications, bringing the total number of certified applicants to 13. The three most recently approved applications are for a dispensary, a retail establishment and a testing facility.

Kaleb Asfaha, who successfully applied to operate the testing lab, said he was excited Friday to go pick up his certification from City Hall. Although the approval of his application, which he submitted last summer, took longer than he anticipated, Asfaha commended city staff for their diligence.

“It’s a major, major milestone,” Asfaha said of getting final approval from the city. “The city of Lompoc has gone out of their way to move things as fast as they possibly could. In business, nothing ever moves as fast as you want it to be, but as long as it’s moving in the right direction and everyone is working their hardest, it means a lot.”

Asfaha plans to operate his Merso Labs at 1204 W. Laurel Ave., a space that had previously been used for storage by another company. He is currently renovating the industrial facility with an eye on June 1 to begin his cannabis-compliance testing operations.

“We want to be able to be available for service when our cultivators are preparing for their first harvest of the year,” he said.

Asfaha said he is planning to hold an offsite grand-opening celebration that also will serve as a community education event. While the lab will primarily be used to ensure that cannabis products meet certain standards, Asfaha said the facility could have impacts and benefits beyond the legal marijuana market.

“With the equipment we have, we can do much more than just the cannabis compliance testing,” he said, suggesting some wider agricultural uses. “So, we’ll be providing the community with details as far as how we can provide those services.”

Another of the applications approved this past week is for the Santa Barbara County-based Coastal Dispensary to open a retail business at 124 South J St.

Coastal Dispensary already holds a permit for operation in Santa Barbara and has applications pending in Goleta and San Luis Obispo.

“The Central Coast, from San Luis Obispo to Ventura County, is where our hearts are,” said Coastal Dispensary principal Julian Michalowski, according to a statement put out by the company. “This is where we want our business to grow, right here where we live. Serving these communities are our focus.”

The dispensary’s opening is planned for December. If it does open by then, it would become at least the second dispensary to open in Lompoc this year, following the opening of Leaf Dispensary in January. Leaf Dispensary was the first adult-use dispensary to open in all of Santa Barbara County.

The location of the Coastal Dispensary has been the subject of some controversy in Lompoc over the past year.

The site is currently home to the Classical School of Ballet, which is owned by Angela Mill. Last year, Mill took exception to the Lompoc City Council choosing to not categorize dance studios as “youth centers,” a move that could have prevented her school — and other dance studios — from getting a 600-foot exclusionary buffer zone from cannabis operations.

Mill went so far as to threaten litigation against the city before ultimately reaching a settlement with the city that stipulated that Mill's school would have a 1,000-foot buffer from cannabis businesses. The settlement had no financial impacts, according to city staff.

Attempts on Friday to reach Mill were unsuccessful, so it is unclear if she sold the building to the organization that will operate the Coastal Dispensary and/or if she plans to relocate her ballet school.

The other recently approved application was for a retail operation in the 113 and 119 blocks of North A Street. That application was submitted by Christopher Hester.

Of the 13 commercial cannabis applications that have been approved by the city of Lompoc, five are strictly retail (meaning nonmedical); one is for retail, on-site consumption and delivery; one is for retail and delivery; one is for retail with dispensary; one is just for a dispensary; one is just for distribution; two are for manufacturing; and one is for a testing lab.

Asfaha, who plans to start with 12 employees and grow to as many as 15 in his testing lab, said Friday that he was looking forward to his opening. He also noted that he was already eyeing expansion for what he anticipates will be a high demand for his services.

“The demand that’s been called for us [so far] has been a lot, and we have to be able to not only meet those demands, but in addition to that, have the capacity to take in new clientele,” he said.

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Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.

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