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City Council to consider county cannabis grows
pot in county pic
The owner of this property on East Greenway Avenue near Highway 99 in Turlock is seeking a county permit to grow commercial cannabis. - photo by ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal

Of the 265 Commercial Cannabis Activity permit requests submitted to Stanislaus County last October from pot entrepreneurs vying for the opportunity to grow, distribute and sell marijuana in the area, just five came from the Turlock area, and three are close enough to the city’s limits that they require approval from the Turlock City Council.

Despite legality at the state level, individual cities and counties in California have their own say as to whether or not they will allow commercial cannabis sales within their limits. Stanislaus County has decided to allow commercial cannabis activities within county-governed areas, but the ordinance also requires city approval for any application for commercial cannabis activities located either within a city’s adopted sphere of influence (the area directly outside of a city’s limits) or within a ½-mile radius outside of the sphere when that city has an ordinance banning such activities.

The Turlock City Council voted to ban all commercial cannabis activities in January 2017, and has not changed the ordinance since. On Jan. 23, the council will consider the three county permit requests within Turlock’s sphere of influence and its ½-mile buffer. All three are considered small scale grows, with one proposed to be located on East Greenway Avenue and the other two on East Linwood Avenue in Turlock.

As the approaching City Council decision looms over the applicants’ heads, Turlock resident Nate Tremble awaits his potential business venture’s fate anxiously. He’s watched the city government’s reaction to Turlock’s only medicinal marijuana dispensary storefront, Drylake Wellness, closely, he said, hoping that since the operation has been in business since August without being shut down, maybe the same compassion will be shown to his plea.

“My game plan was to try and go to the City and cut them a deal,” said Tremble, adding speculation that other towns, like Riverbank and Patterson, have done the same with cannabis operations within their jurisdictions. “It sounds like that dispensary in Turlock over there on South Walnut by the sewage plant probably has an in somewhere with the City, because it’s banned within the city limits.”

Drylake Wellness is the lone brick and mortar location in Turlock that is advertised on Weedmaps (similar to Yelp!, but for marijuana users), and has been operating in Turlock since August 2017, despite all commercial cannabis activities, including medicinal, being banned within Turlock’s city limits.

“We’re hoping the City is okay with us, because that dispensary has been operating over there and no one has shut them down. I think they’re smart people over at the City, and they’re going to see that allowing marijuana here could play in their favor,” said Tremble.

Tremble, along with his business partner Byron Bogard, has applied to operate a small-scale cannabis cultivation in the 1200 block of East Greenway Avenue through their company, Bynate Inc. The property is located within Turlock’s sphere of influence, right next to Highway 99. The cultivation operation would include two 30,000 square foot greenhouses for a total cultivation of 60,000 square feet, or about an acre and a half.

If approved, the cultivation would provide cannabis for some local dispensaries, said Tremble, as well as others in Southern California. So far, neither Tremble nor his business partner have heard from the City of Turlock, he said.

“We have put a lot of time, effort and money into this, and it’s all such a wishy-washy process. Anyone else looking to start a business wouldn’t have to go through these kind of issues,” he added. “There’s a huge opportunity in the industry and for the leaders and the town of Turlock to be so biased against it, it actually hurts the city instead of helping the city to generate revenue. We don’t understand why the city has issues, since we just want to farm a legal substance.”

In order to apply for the county cannabis program, Tremble and other applicants were required to submit their application, along with a $4,359 non-refundable deposit. The question of whether or not the time, trouble and money is worth it is still yet to be decided.

At the Nov. 16 Stanislaus County Planning Commission meeting, Turlock’s then-Deputy Director of Development Services and Planning Manager Debbie Whitmore commended the commission for listening to the concerns of cities when making changes to the county’s cannabis ordinance – specifically, Turlock’s request to allow cities with adopted commercial cannabis bans decision-making power over approval of discretionary commercial cannabis permits within their spheres of influence and within a one-half mile radius outside of their influence.

“We’re not here to necessarily express support for the ordinance, but do want to express support for two key provisions of the draft regulatory ordinance…and express the city’s appreciation for additional time taken by county staff to address the comments and concerns in the City of Turlock,” said Whitmore at that meeting.

“We wanted to make sure that businesses would not be located immediately next to Turlock city limits, and impose on city residents and businesses a use that would be inappropriate for our city,” said Whitmore, adding that the cannabis businesses would also likely stretch an already-thin demand for city fire and police units.

Additional requests for small-scale cannabis grows within Turlock’s sphere of influence to be considered by the City Council include two adjacent properties on East Linwood Avenue, applied for by Genobeva Maciel. Applications for both properties have requested to cultivate 22,000 square feet of cannabis, for a total of 44,000 square feet of marijuana cultivation.

Other requests that are nearby but will not be considered by the City Council since they are not within Turlock’s sphere of influence include applications for locations on East Hatch Road in Hughson, North Mitchell Road in Turlock, Geer Road near Sante Fe Avenue, Swanson Road in Denair, Lyon Road in Hughson, South Faith Home Road in Turlock and Verduga Road in Hughson.