From “Big K” to big cannabis | Photo by Ryan Burns

In October of last year the Eureka Kmart forever closed its doors, leaving behind an empty shell once filled with cheaply made goods at low, low prices. Since then you’ve likely been wondering what would go in its place. If you guessed a cannabis business, then ding! ding! ding! You win!

On Monday the Eureka Planning Commission approved permits for local business Papa & Barkley to operate a cannabis manufacturing facility in the 55,000-square-foot commercial building that used to house the “Big K.”

The conditional use permit allows for “non-volatile” manufacturing, meaning that use of flammable gases or chemicals would be prohibited. But Papa & Barkley Chief Compliance Officer Jon O’Connor said there’s no need to worry about that. The company intends to use their new location for packaging and distributing their product and not cooking it.

Image from Papa & Barkley

O’Connor told the Outpost that even if they do decide to manufacture their product there in the future, their methods are well within the “non-volatile” requirements. Where other companies sometimes use butane or CO2 extraction, P&B uses heat and pressure with coconut oil.

The company specializes in non-psychoactive medical cannabis products, such as pills, tinctures, balms and patches. They’ve been pretty successful, too. Since opening about two years ago, they already have two Eureka locations and about 70 employees. With this expansion, they expect to increase to roughly 100 employees. 

Several other people spoke during the meeting in support of the permit approvals. Executive Director of the Humboldt County Growers Alliance Terra Carver urged the commission to approve this project, which she said would stimulate economic development, job growth and help improve the unsightly vacant building.

“Let’s just call it what it is. The building is a current blight to our community,” she said to the planning commission. 

All these benefits were enough to get a unanimous vote of approval from the commission. This might not come as a surprise. “Job creation” and “economic development” are two things that city staff likes to hear.

Plus, the city of Eureka has been making it pretty clear that they are on board with the legal cannabis industry. Eureka Development Services Director Rob Holmlund said that the city has issued 95 cannabis permits (some companies are issued more than one.) Another use permit was issued during this same meeting, and another cannabis company just took over the old Bien Padre factory.

“We want to eliminate the black market,” Holmlund told the Outpost. “We want to completely eliminate illegal grows, illegal hash labs. They don’t belong in Eureka.”

O’Connor said that the company is still in the process of purchasing the property and are hoping to close by the end of the year.

You can view the full Eureka Planning Commission meeting here.

Image of the property from city staff report