3 pot dispensaries open for business in Modesto area

etracy@modbee.comJune 16, 2013 

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    Erin Tracy
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Several medical marijuana dispensaries began operating recently in the region, despite conflicts with ordinances and the threat of federal prosecution.

Kiona's Farm'acy set up shop in the River Road Plaza, a small strip mall just outside Oakdale off Highway 120, in October. A location in Tracy opened about a year before that.

A third dispensary in Calaveras County, Little Trees Wellness Collective, opened in Arnold this month. It joins the Forgotten Knowledge Collective in Valley Springs and the Blue Mountain Collective in San Andreas as storefront businesses offering medical pot in the county.

The Kiona Foundation, a nonprofit, tax-exempt public benefit corporation, owns Kiona's Farm'acy, according to its business license.

The business type identified in the license is "social services/retail" and includes a note that states, "Not a dispensary/corporate office & consultation by a certified herbalist."

But on the nonprofit's business card, "medicinal cannabis" with "recommendation required" is listed among its services. The business appears on websites linking medical pot users with dispensaries or collectives such as www.wheresweed.com or www.weedmaps.com. Customers can write reviews, and one said Kiona's sells an eighth of an ounce of marijuana for $45 to $55.

The owner, Lakisha Jenkins, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Dispensaries cannot legally operate in Stanislaus County because a permit is required and the county is not currently issuing permits, said County Counsel John Doering. An ordinance for dispensaries exists only as a space holder should federal and state law someday align, he said.

Possessing and growing cannabis for medicinal use in California has conflicted with federal law since 1996, when it became legal under Proposition 215. But there has never been a statewide agency to regulate the industry, and a bill that would have created one failed in the Assembly this month.

Municipalities have been left to create their own policies, which range from a full embrace and few regulations on dispensaries to moratoriums prohibiting them.

Of the three Calaveras dispensaries, only Blue Mountain Collective has complied with all county regulations and obtained necessary permits.

Dispensaries elsewhere in the region have come and gone because of conflicts with city zoning ordinances and, in some cases, because of federal prosecution.

In June 2006, the Stanislaus Drug Enforcement Agency raided a store just outside of the Modesto city limits on McHenry Avenue, which was licensed to sell soaps and body lotions but operated a dispensary out of a back room.

Three months later and about three miles south on McHenry, another dispensary was raided, and its owners eventually were sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The Stockton Record contributed to this report.

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