After a few short months, a Sonoma County entrepreneur’s dreams for a Penngrove cannabis business have gone up in smoke.
James Hartwick, a Casa Grande High School graduate, launched the BRIC Hive — short for building relationships in cannabis — on Jan. 1 in the former Penngrove Hatchery building. He’s now shuttered the business, though he declined to divulge details about the demise of the venture he founded with his wife and cousin or the exact date of the closure.
“We got a little bit of harassment by the county and so we decided we’re not willing to put the money into it,” he said. “I’m retiring. I lost a quarter of a million dollars and I don’t want to dwell on it. It makes me sick to think about all the time and energy spent to help the community.”
Hartwick in January referred to the venture as a “safe place to do legal cannabis business,” with professional support and virtual office services, as well as spaces for meetings, events and classes for “cannapreneurs.” Clients included Etinterra Solutions, a nonprofit mobile medical marijuana dispensary with products on display in the lobby, though Hartwick said no cannabis was sold on site.
Top county officials said Hartwick had not sought approval for work he’d undertaken to revamp the building, and his use of the space wasn’t compliant with zoning or county ordinances.
“He was running what we categorize under our ordinance as a dispensary without a permit,” said Tennis Wick, director of Sonoma County’s Permit and Resource Management Department. “The zoning doesn’t allow for a dispensary and if it did allow a dispensary, he would have to get a use permit, which he didn’t have.”
Wick denied claims of harassment, adding “we weren’t trying to clamp his roach, we were just trying to get him to comply.”
Hartwick, 38, previously said he had purchased the building amid plans to build a brew pub, a “cannaspa” with cannabis-infused products, and to use the commercial kitchen as a space to bake edibles. He said Friday he paid an exit amount and relinquished the property to its previous owner. Wick said the county is working with the property owners to work out minor issues with permitted work.
The 9,425-square-foot Old Redwood Highway property went on the market for $2.7 million last week, Keegan and Coppin Company, Inc. listing broker Dino D’Argenzio said.
“We’re talking to different North Bay companies, it could be a maker space or a creative space,” he said.
Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt said he’d heard concern from residents about the business. He described the budding cannabis industry as a “whole new world” for the county as officials work to craft a policy after the November passage of Prop 64, which legalized recreational marijuana for those above the age of 21 but gave local governments the power to regulate cannabis-related activities.
“Through the growth of the cannabis industry, there are a lot of people who are risk takers and not necessarily in the loop on the regulatory side,” he said. “You need to know what you can do with a building before you start doing what it is you want to do.”
Though Hartwick had outlined plans to work with the Sonoma County Grower’s Alliance, Executive Director Tawnie Logan said that never came to fruition.
More coverage of North Coast cannabis commerce: nbbj.news/cannabis
This story originally appeared at petaluma360.com/news/6854005-181/penngrove-cannabis-business-closed-after.