On the same night that Modesto leaders banned marijuana dispensaries from its downtown, those in Riverbank approved one on its busiest street.
Eighteen residents pleaded Tuesday with the Riverbank City Council to find a location other than 2213 Patterson Road, on a stretch between Galaxy Theatres and McDonalds, or to ban cannabis sales altogether. Some predicted that the dispensary would produce riffraff and harm children catching a bus nearby or attending a martial arts academy next door. One woman broke into tears.
"I left Modesto because of this kind of crap," Dennis Starkweather said.
Former city officials also showed up to argue against the application of Pacafi Cooperative, short for Patient Care First with a Modesto business address, according to weedmaps.com. The dispensary will be called Flavors.
A dentist said marijuana can alter brains permanently. Others worried about property values plummeting.
"We can be different," Leticia Delgado said, "be known as the city that did not allow it here."
Applicants, including Flavors co-owner Devin Stetler, noted that Californians a year ago voted to allow commercial marijuana. He said he hears that black-market operators are leaving the area because they won't be able to compete with legitimate cannabis sales.
"We're going to build an upscale, nice establishment here that's ambiguous on the outside but properly run on the inside and outside," Stetler said, vowing to allow no "trashing" or "sleaze."
Property owner Ron Roberts, a Riverbank resident, said people can be against marijuana but for dispensaries because they're regulated.
All five council members said they don't support marijuana use. But they spent several months studying regulation and held nine public meetings, and some visited dispensaries elsewhere to see how they're run.
"I didn't see any riffraff anywhere, or people lying on the lawn, and no garbage. These are legitimate business people," said Councilwoman Leanne Jones Cruz.
Mayor Richard O'Brien said, "Each one of us has had grave concerns, but if we don't manage it, it will manage us."
All five council members voted to approve the application, some noting that a three-year development agreement allows the city to shut down Flavors if it doesn't follow the rules.
Flavors intends to be open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day, and agreed to pay the city $10,000 a month for six months, $15,000 a month for the next six months and $18,000 a month for the next two years, or 5 percent of gross sales if that amount is higher.
A second application, submitted by a business also seeking approval in Modesto, will come before the Riverbank Planning Commission shortly, officials said.
Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390