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Pot dispensary opens and wow, is it busy!
Patrons of the new Patient Care First marijuana dispensary on Angie Avenue in Ceres must show a medical cannabis ID card before they enter. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

The Patient Care First medical marijuana dispensary opened last week on Angie Avenue in Ceres, drawing traffic volumes that have stunned neighboring industrial park businesses.

"I didn't even know such businesses like this existed but they are certainly drawing a lot of business," said an employee of a business west of the cannabis dealer who did not want to be quoted.

A heavy security guard force was maintained at the northern entrance of the building as well as the parking lot to the east where cars were coming and going Friday afternoon. Mostly young people were flocking to the business but stopped by Stone Protection Services security guards at the front door asking to see medical marijuana cards and seeing if they were referred to the new Ceres shop from the Charity Way facility being closed down. Those without a card were denied entry.

Each time the door opened, the strong smell of marijuana drifted across the sidewalk not far from Mitchell Road.

Since 1996 when California voters legalized access to medical marijuana through Proposition 215, doctors have granted patients' access to cannabis by writing "recommendations" for its use since federal law does not allow doctors to legally allow to "prescribe" marijuana. Many opponents of medical marijuana charge that the system, which allows cards to be obtained online without ever seeing a doctor, is a cover to allow persons without real medical need to use marijuana.

The Courier attempted to gain entry but was denied and a request to speak to the manager went unanswered as of press time.

A sign on the door posts the business hours of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays.

ePacafi Cooperative Inc., won Ceres City Council approval in October to open the 6,000-square-foot medical marijuana dispensary at 1442 Angie Avenue. Ceres' first-ever legal medical cannabis dispensary was approved under a development agreement that requires payment of a substantial fee each month.

City Manager Toby Wells said dispensaries for adult recreational use could also be allowed if the state includes it in the permitting process. He said the agreement with Pacafi is for medical marijuana only but said "most experts do expect regulatory structure in the future to most likely come together for adult use and medicinal but as it stands today they are two separate licensing processes."

Earlier this year 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.

Wells was told the business will employ about 30 workers on different shifts and that 34 parking spaces are available along with on-street parking. Wells said customer volume would range from 200 to 500 per day during business hours that generally range from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sales would be made to only those holding medical cannabis ID cards. A typical transaction is less than 10 minutes, he said. Wells said that since the intersection of nearby Hatch and Mitchell is the third busiest in the county, he doesn't feel the dispensary will create significant traffic problems.

In October Stanislaus County supervisors approved marijuana dispensaries for unincorporated areas of the county.