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Council open to adult use cannabis dispensaries
Marijuana is fast becoming Californias big cash crop with cities like Ceres willing to open the doors in exchange of revenue windfalls. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

With monies now rolling in from medicinal marijuana dispensaries into city coffers, a majority of the City Council appeared poised on Monday to begin allowing cannabis stores to sell recreational pot in Ceres.

Mayor Chris Vierra and Councilmembers Ken Lane and Bret Durossette formed the majority opinion that two already-approved medical dispensaries in Ceres should be able to sell marijuana to recreational users. However Vice Mayor Mike Kline and Councilwoman Linda Ryno said they won't support the concept.

The council agreed to put a chill on any additional dispensary applications.

"I can remember when we first got into a discussion about medicinal dispensaries and adult use dispensaries," said Ryno, "(and) we all said no to both of them. Then we changed our mind about the medicinal but everyone on this council was still absolutely adamant about no adult use dispensaries. I'm curious why three of you ... what made you change your mind?"

Durossette replied, saying "we don't have many opportunities for the financial dollars that are coming in." He added that if it were up to him, there would be no marijuana dispensaries in Ceres had the California voters not approved its use.

Mayor Chris Vierra noted how the county is poised to allow all types of dispensaries in the unincorporated areas of the county. He also turned the question around on Ryno, asking her why she flipped and voted to support the medicinal marijuana dispensary on Angie Avenue.

"I don't partake of it (marijuana) and don't believe in it," said the mayor, "but the voters of California did and my job is to administer what they wanted."

He chided the state for changing regulations for the burgeoning industry in California.

City Manager Toby Wells reviewed recent actions taken by the state, which was supposed to have a framework in place by Jan. 1 in answer to the passage of Proposition 64 in late 2016. Instead the state came up with a temporary "emergency" set of regulations under the Medicinal & Adult Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act. The Legislature opted for new regulations on an emergency basis that will expire at the end of the year as it develops a more permanent framework.

"Leave it to the state and probably the county to go ahead and mess everything up," said Vierra. "Here we have two of the (cannabis) businesses that we've had come into town, we put them through a strict development agreement and vet the whole process and then the state - because they can't get their house in order - they just said, well, we're going to just allow everybody to have everything. So now our two businesses that we have, if we don't allow the adult use ...they'd be at a distinct disadvantage."

In May 2017 the council approved a medical marijuana manufacturing facility for an industrial area in southwest Ceres. The developer agreement for Kase Manufacturing, 4111 Brew Master Drive, calls for the business to pay the city fees of $50,000 per month during the first year. The fee increases to $75,000 per month in the second year and $100,000 per month in the third year. The plant is operational with the first payment to the city to occur on Jan. 2.

Since then, the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors said it will allow medical cannabis dispensaries in the unincorporated areas of the county - but not near cities like Turlock, Hughson, Waterford and Newman which aren't allowing dispensaries.

The first medicinal dispensary was approved in October for Pacafi Cooperative, Inc. to operate its 6,000-square-foot Patient Care First dispensary at 1442 Angie Avenue. Then in November it approved Reynolds' dispensary at 4030 Farm Supply Drive.

Wells said the city expects to receive a minimum of $130,000 per month from the three cannabis operators in Ceres. That amount could be higher depending on the success of the sales.

"All I hear is we need it for the money, the money, the money," said Ryno. "So are we being greedy? Are we selling the soul of the city for money? Are we selling our community just so we get this money for cannabis?"

Mayor Vierra replied: "No, I don't think so," to which Ryno came back with, "Well, I guess I would disagree, especially when I heard from some folks that live out by Farm Supply Drive that were upset about that facility going in .. but feel it's going to affect them."

She was referring to the council's November approval of a developer agreement with Mike Reynolds to allow Kase's Journey medicinal cannabis dispensary to open up in southwest Ceres.

Vice Mayor Kline said he remembered the outcry over the second dispensary application than the first one.

"We don't know what we're getting into," said Kline. "We don't know what the outcome's going to be and I would like to put the adult use on hold for anywhere from a year to two years to see where we're going to stand." He asked how the issue will affect police and other services.

Wells said the city also a chance to put a cannabis sales tax on the November ballot to capture more tax revenues. How that would affect the three developer agreements in place would remain to be seen.