When most businesses are struggling to make ends meet, Lompoc's rapidly growing cannabis industry is helping the city make up for financial losses caused by the pandemic.
On Jan. 18, 2019, Lompoc gave Leaf Dispensary the green light to open, becoming the first recreational marijuana dispensary to open in all of Santa Barbara County after the passage of Proposition 64 in 2016.
Leaf Dispensary manager Angela Soleno remembers the sudden influx of business.
"We were having people flying in to like Santa Barbara, driving up for the day and getting their stock of stuff for their vacations," Soleno said.
Cannabis businesses in Lompoc seem to be weathering the economic storm caused by COVID-19.
"We're surviving. Obviously, COVID has presented a new challenge to us so we've opened deliveries and curbside pickup," she said.
Now, Leaf Dispensary is in good company. Eleven dispensaries are currently open in Lompoc, plus three other cannabis-related businesses.
"The other dispensaries opening up has created a bit of a saturation of dispensaries for Lompoc specifically because it's a small community," Soleno said.
Soleno says the high supply means competitive, lower prices of cannabis products for consumers.
The Roots Dispensary, owned by Luis Castaneda, has been open for about a year now.
"We were actually the fifth shop to open in town and thankfully it's been good," said Castaneda.
Castaneda says it was a long process to get to this point.
"Being that it's a new industry, there's a lot to figure out," he said.
Their efforts are paying off.
"We can take the negativity associated with cannabis and really flip people's perspective on it," Castaneda said.
Feelings on marijuana aside, the City says the funding is helpful.
According to Lompoc City Manager Jim Throop, the cannabis industry brought in a little over $126,000 in the first year of allowing dispensaries to operate.
In the second year, taxes on pot sales generated nearly eight times as much revenue, raking in some $938,000.
The total revenue from cannabis to date in Lompoc is $1,711,056.
Throop says the funding from this general tax goes to the city's general fund to pay for services like police, fire protection and park maintenance.
"We've been able to help so many people," Castaneda said.
Plus, the industry is helping Lompoc bridge the economic gap in the face of a financially crippling pandemic.
The cannabis industry continues to grow in Lompoc.
At the start of 2021, Throop says the city received 49 applications for cannabis licenses and issued 14 applicants a business license.