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Modesto leaders ban cannabis shops downtown. Marijuana emporium proposed for former Longs Drug site.

Recreational weed is now legal in California. So what does that mean?

In January 2018, state and local authorities will begin issuing licenses for the sale of legal recreational marijuana. But what do you need to know before you rush to the dispensary? Information courtesy of Ballotpedia.com.
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In January 2018, state and local authorities will begin issuing licenses for the sale of legal recreational marijuana. But what do you need to know before you rush to the dispensary? Information courtesy of Ballotpedia.com.

The Modesto City Council voted late Tuesday night to allow as many as 10 marijuana dispensaries in the city.

None of the retail cannabis stores will emerge in the downtown area. The vote shortly after 11 p.m. was 6-1, with Councilman Doug Ridenour opposed.

Josh Bridegroom, chief executive officer of the nonprofit Downtown Modesto Partnership, said it’s not known whether legal marijuana stores will create problems. He said the partnership wants to maintain a positive atmosphere for promoting residential projects downtown.

Marijuana outlets are “an untested thing. We have not had a chance to see how they will perform,” Bridegroom said.

Modesto’s Downtown Improvement District also had concerns with the Planning Commission’s advice to allow up to three dispensaries downtown. Bridegroom said it could be considered after retail outlets are tested in other locations in Modesto.

Weed shops were temporarily banned in a broadly defined downtown area bordered by Highway 99 on the west; Kansas Avenue, Needham Avenue and Downey Street on the north; Burney Street on the east; and D Street on the south

Councilwoman Kristi Ah You said her district includes hundreds of businesses on McHenry Avenue, and she didn’t want McHenry to be inundated with pot dispensaries.

Likewise, Councilman Bill Zoslocki said he would not support the regulations if dispensaries are concentrated on Yosemite Boulevard. He said business owners on Yosemite have enough troubles to deal with. “I cannot tell you how many calls I am getting,” Zoslocki said.

Under the city’s regulations, cannabis stores must be at least 100 feet from residences. City staff told the council a wider 200-foot buffer between dispensaries and homes would eliminate almost all commercial areas as potential sites for dispensaries.

The city rules establish a 600-foot buffer between marijuana businesses and schools, day cares and youth centers. Modesto residents can grow six plants inside their home or in a detached structure behind the house. No outdoor cultivation is permitted.

In a second vote, the council pledged to continue working with Stanislaus County on an agreement for commercial cannabis tax-sharing and regulation.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, a proposal surfaced for a marijuana emporium in the former Longs Drugs Store on McHenry, across from McHenry Village Shopping Center. The business would combine medicinal and recreational cannabis sales with cultivation, distribution and extraction, according to proponent Mark Gray. The former Longs site has 400 parking spaces.

City staff said the commercial zoning would not allow cultivation and Gray would need to ask for a rezoning. Cecil Russell, president of the Modesto Chamber of Commerce, told the council the property was not available.

Tim Bettencourt, the broker for the property, said Wednesday the former Longs site is leased to an established business. “I get calls all the time for that use,” Bettencourt said. “All I can tell you is we have a lease on the property and the owner intends to honor the lease.”

Deanna Garcia of Sacramento acknowledged her proposal for a boutique medical cannabis spa, with onsite consumption, massage and cannabis creams, was killed by the downtown ban. Garcia said she hopes to get approval for the same business in Riverbank.

Local governments may authorize or prohibit onsite consumption at a licensed marijuana business under Proposition 64, which legalized cannabis for adult use.

Ken Carlson: 209-578-2321, @KenCarlson16

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