Cannabis stores could begin to open throughout Fresno

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fresno can soon be seeing a new cash crop -- only this one is arguably controversial.

City Councilman, Mike Karbassi says, "The whole cannabis process is very different for the city. We even track the money separately in our general fund than we do other funding and those are state requirements."

The city is taking a unique approach to one commercial cannabis business, Banyan tree, that meets its "social equity" requirements.

Thursday, city council voted to approve a $75,000 loan to assist with the company with start-up, regulatory and operating costs.

Karbassi says, "I'm not a fan of recreational cannabis, but voters approved and passed it. So we want to make sure the small businesses that are opening survive and are successful.

Undergoing site inspections, owner Ace Castillo hopes to open shop near Blackstone and Sierra in the next few months.

Castillo says he's a recipient of a grant money and this loan means once he gets a Conditional use and building permit, the build-out can begin -- that should take two months.

Castillo adds, "they gave us $33,000 of grant money to help with the C.U.P. process and the licensing fee that the city is going to charge for the annual fee. I'm grateful I had the opportunity to apply through the social equity program. It helped a person like myself get into this industry.

Around the city, there will be a maximum of three cannabis stores per district.

Each has to comply with state regulations and develop robust security plans.

Pending a final city inspection, the first to open could be the Artist Tree, a company that already has several southern California locations.

Co-founder Lauren Fontein says they are "really excited about bringing our art focus concept to the City of Fresno and we've been working with local artists."

The final step is a security inspection by Fresno police, making sure the business is in compliance with code and the promises they made in the business application.

In addition to hiring 25-30 local staff members, Fontein says they are hiring armed security.

She adds, "In-site security guards during all of our opening hours, and we have that long site after hours as well. We have to have alarm systems."

Pending final city approval, the "Artist Tree" ownership team says regardless, the soonest they can open is at the end of the month as they are still building out the interior.
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