As Stanislaus County moves forward into the final phases of application approval for cannabis businesses, many popular dispensaries in the area have been told they’ll have to close their doors by June 30.
The Honest Choice in Denair — just a short 11-minute drive from Turlock — is still in the stiff competition to be just one of seven dispensaries in the county. Business is booming for the marijuana shop in the small, rural town which has been operating medicinally since March 2017, but recently received the go-ahead from the County to offer recreational products.
The Honest Choice manager Ashley Kaderlik believes the dispensary has brought new life to Denair.
“You know in the movie ‘Cars’ when they drive into Radiator Springs and it’s all dead? That’s what it was like here a year ago. Now when you drive in, there’s people everywhere,” she said. “I’m not saying it’s all because of us, but it’s just a tiny little town that was trying to get attention and now they’re getting it.”
In September 2017, the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors approved a conservative strategy to allow the retail sale and cultivation of cannabis within county-governed areas, setting into motion a process that would yield 19 retail dispensary applications and 61 applications across all categories.
The Honest Choice was one of nine cannabis dispensaries on county land to receive a score of 80 percent or higher on their application packet last month, permitting the business to move on to the next phase of approval. Packets were sent to a Sacramento-based consulting firm for evaluation, Stanislaus County Assistant Executive Officer Keith Boggs said, and 11 did not make the cut, including well-known area dispensaries like Jayden’s Journey and NRC Holistic Health Services Clinic in Modesto.
The two dispensaries are appealing the decision, and watching the process occur has Kaderlik feeling lucky, she said.
“We have very strict guidelines and we follow them, but I’m not sure what exactly it was that set us apart,” she said. “We’re very blessed that we were able to move on…we’re just a small shop out here in the sticks.”
The Honest Choice was originally met with concerns from community members, Kaderlik said, which were voiced at a Denair Municipal Advisory Council Board meeting earlier this year. Main concerns from citizens included worries about the foot traffic surrounding the dispensary, and what kind of activities those people would partake in. Kaderlik said that after community members realized the security measures The Honest Choice had taken, including cameras and a guard, those fears were eased.
“The town knows we’re here and I feel like they’re happy that we’re here,” she said. “I feel like we put Denair on the map. A lot more people are coming to this town, which is what they’ve wanted and needed.”
Boggs said that there haven’t been any enforcement problems surrounding the nine cannabis dispensaries currently operating legally, and that community benefit fees paid to the County by the businesses are being used for special investigators, attorneys and sergeants specifically geared toward cannabis.
According to Kaderlik, The Honest Choice serves close to 300 clients per day from as far as Merced and Atwater, though a majority of their patients come from Denair and Turlock. About 50 to 60 percent of the shop’s customers are from Turlock, she estimated, where cannabis is banned.
Recently, Turlock has discussed cannabis as a potential answer to its money woes. Speaking on experience, Kaderlik said that for cannabis to be a successful market in any town, it first has to be tolerated by citizens.
“You have to be accepted by the people around you or it’s not going to be good in the end,” she said. “When it comes to Turlock, if the people in town are saying no, don’t push it because in the long term, that conflict will hurt the business more.”
Denair has wholeheartedly accepted The Honest Choice, Kaderlik believes, and she credits the dispensary’s community involvement. Recently, the shop has provided face painting at events like Denair High School’s sober grad night and the town’s Easter celebration, and during the holidays the dispensary held food and toy drives for the less fortunate.
A large portion of the dispensary’s patients are still medicinal, she added, making The Honest Choice vital to many in the area battling illnesses like cancer. Moving forward, two more dispensaries will be cut before the final seven in Stanislaus County are decided on.
“I think it’s pretty important to people,” she said. “If we were to leave, there would be a lot of people who wouldn’t know what to do.”