Santa Rosa’s first commercial growing operation for medical marijuana moves forward

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Santa Rosa’s budding above-board marijuana industry continued its growth Thursday when planning officials sanctioned the city’s first commercial growing operation.

Planning commissioners voted 5-0 — with two commissioners absent — to allow Aim High Cultivation to establish a medical marijuana cultivation facility at a northwest Santa Rosa building currently occupied by a tile company.

The use permit approval comes about one month after city officials said a Seattle investment firm could bring a medical marijuana processing, manufacturing and distribution center to a southwest Santa Rosa business park.

Together, the moves are fueling the city’s effort to become a hub for medical cannabis business — and laying groundwork that would prove useful should Californians vote in favor of recreational marijuana in November. Aim High Cultivation still needs to clear additional local hurdles, including getting a building permit, but Thursday’s planning vote marked a major milestone for Santa Rosa. And the application passed easily, with commissioners praising Aim High Cultivation for providing an exemplary and thorough application, particularly in the area of security.

“If we’re going to do medical cultivation here in Santa Rosa, this is how it should be done. I’m really glad this was our first one out of the gate,” said Commissioner Ashle Crocker. “This really shows the future folks, too ... what we’re looking for.”

Led by Brian Dombrowski of Santa Rosa, Aim High Cultivation plans to move into an existing 12,110-square-foot facility at 3310 Industrial Drive, near Bottle Barn and Plow Brewing Co. The property is owned by Dombrowski’s father-in-law, Rick Dennett, who currently runs Dennett Tile and Stone there.

Inside its facility, Aim High Cultivation envisions a total of six indoor growing rooms, as well as rooms for cloning, scrubbing, drying and trimming marijuana. The operation would also include an office, a secure vault, restrooms and a security room, according to a staff report.

Aim High Cultivation intends to have security guards on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The group also told city officials in a written statement it would strategically position surveillance cameras throughout the facility and install an electronic security system.

Employees will need to use both a key and an access code to enter all external doors, the group said in its statement. There will be no public access: The front doors will only be used for emergency exits, and access to the facility will be controlled by 6-foot-tall steel gates, the report said.

To control odors from the marijuana growing, the facility plans to use two layers of air filtration, with filters at the exhaust vents to each growing room and an additional filter at an exterior vent, according to the staff report, and use a carbon filtration system to absorb and mitigate odors.

Dombrowski’s group was one of three to apply for commercial marijuana cultivation permits since the Santa Rosa City Council approved interim rules in February. The other two remain incomplete until the city receives additional materials from the applicants, the staff report said.

Eventually, Aim High Cultivation and other growing operations will need to secure state permits, too, but the state is not expected to accept those applications until 2018. Santa Rosa’s interim rules will allow growing operations to get up and running in the meantime.

Clare Hartman, Santa Rosa’s deputy planning director, told the commission the interim rules defer to state law, including on the issue of how closely marijuana businesses can be located to schools.

While the closest public school to the Aim High Cultivation location is beyond a 600-foot boundary established by state law, a private educational facility was within 600 feet, Hartman said. But Aim High Cultivation qualifies for an exemption from the 600-foot requirement because it has no storefront or retail component, according to Hartman.

You can reach Staff Writer J.D. Morris at 707-521-5337 or On Twitter @thejdmorris.

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