Fresno County pot dispensaries forced out of business

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif.

About 15 medical marijuana dispensaries were in operation last August, when county supervisors voted to ban storefront sales. Just a few were left behind to wrap up business Thursday.

The county gave dispensaries more than six months to wrap up loose ends, but their deadline has now arrived. All the dispensaries Action News visited Thursday said they're closing up shop, but they're concerned where their patients will go next.

In parts of Fresno County, you could smell the end coming. "Hope I don't get arrested," said one man who was walking his dog and smoking a small joint.

After nearly four years of openly allowing storefront medical marijuana collectives, Thursday was the drop-dead date for the dispensaries. Patients at the Healing Health Center treated it like a "going out of business" sale, rushing to make one last purchase before a county crackdown.

About a block away, at the Mind, Body and Soul collective, patients asked Jody Watkins for one final bit of advice. "Best suggestion is to go to San Jose, go to Oakland, where you know the medicine's safe, as opposed to the streets that quite frankly Sheriff Mims and the board of supervisors have forced everyone out to," Watkins said.

Supervisors voted in August to restrict storefront collectives and limit indoor grows to five industrial areas. Collectives thought they could fight the ordinance until the federal government joined the fight, threatening to seize property from the landlords.

"The threats they have issued him -- if I were the landlord, I would have to do the same," Watkins said.

Supervisor Henry Perea says he believes there are people who could legitimately use marijuana for medical conditions. But abuse was rampant, he says, and the board had to stop it.

"Right now, we're back to square one and we need to find a way to get medical marijuana to those who truly need it," Perea said.

Until that time, medical marijuana users will be locked out.

Sheriff's deputies will be monitoring the dispensaries in the coming days, but the ordinance doesn't let them make arrests. That's up to the feds.

But the county has civil lawsuits ready to go against any dispensary that stays open.

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