As a seventh dispensary opens downtown, many are wondering how all the dispensaries in Lompoc could possibly survive. The answer — they won’t, not unless they get to know our community and what it needs to thrive.
The only way they will keep and grow their new businesses is if they bring more foot traffic to the Lompoc Valley. Our community and the businesses in it will continue to succeed or fail together.
There is one immediate policy change that would give us the boost we need to parlay the crowded retail space into intentional tourism that supports our hotels, restaurants, coffee shops and artists. We must change the zoning policy so the buffer zone around children centers is reduced from 1,000 feet to 600, the minimum allowable under California law.
Currently, Old Town dispensaries cannot capitalize on Lompoc’s lounge law because of their proximity to the Anderson Recreation Center. We do not have the same zoning regulations for alcohol, however, and one of the more popular bars in town is right across the street.
Unfortunately, a lot of the new business owners who have come to town don’t have the same historical memory of Lompoc’s boom-and-bust economic cycles. Many in the crowded retail space are floating the idea of new business moratoriums or are advocating for regulations that would limit their competition. This is not why Lompoc has a free market, and it is not why we created this opportunity for them to do business here.
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Lompoc needs sustainable change. We did not invite 42 new businesses to town so a few people could make a little money. We did it because we want to usher in desperately-needed community revitalization.
Our community needs help. How can Lompoc citizens support more dispensaries when they are still living with shootings and gang violence? When the community around them has seen no real benefit from the new business, they are not likely to continue supporting this new industry. These new businesses have an opportunity to change the course of history in Lompoc, but they must first be willing to engage in the community and be good neighbors.
This comes down to basic supply and demand. There is not enough demand within the Lompoc Valley to support all these dispensaries. There is also not enough demand from within Solvang for all the aebleskiver, or enough internal demand in the county for as much wine as we produce. Increasing demand through tourism by enticing more visitors to our community is how these dispensaries can survive and thrive.
Right now Lompoc has the opportunity to capitalize on the underserved demand for cannabis tourism. It’s not just cannabis either. If we have the infrastructure and local business community to entertain tourists who come for cannabis, more people are more likely to sleep here, eat here and shop here when they drive Highway 1 or come to Santa Barbara County for any reason. Some people might even come here as the destination, on purpose.
If these businesses want to thrive, and if the community wants to see the benefit of new business in town, we must work together to create the incentives. The mega-farms the county has now become famous for would do well to support shuttle services from the Amtrak to lodging, businesses in Lompoc and tours of their farms.
If we build it, they will come. But if the dispensaries and farms eat each other alive while the community continues to feel no benefit from the influx of new business, they will fail. If we work together now, we stand a chance to get ahead of the coming export market and become a tourist destination that supports locally owned business for years to come.
Angela Bacca is a Lompoc resident.