GUSTINE - A cannabis micro-business is expected to open its doors in Gustine in February, the owner told Mattos Newspapers recently.

Robert Villalobos, co-owner and manager of Tip Top Farms, said Feb. 20 is the target date for opening the cannabis enterprise, which is located at 377 Fourth St., adjacent to the Gustine Museum.

The 5,000 square-foot building is being remodeled for the micro-business.

The new business includes a dispensary for retail sales of various cannabis products, as well as cultivation and distribution elements.

Villalobos said the 1,000 square-foot dispensary will offer a large variety of cannabis products, including flower, edibles, lotions, CBD and more.

“We are going to have a very large selection. We will have our brand as well, but our grow will be a very small grow. It will be one of the many lines that we have,” he said of the retail operation. “It will be a good-sized dispensary. It is not small.”

The City Council approved the cannabis micro-business in September 2019.

Getting through the approval process and to the point where an opening is imminent took longer than anticipated, Villalobos acknowledged.

“It was just a lot more than we thought. Everything we did had to be gone through with a fine-toothed comb,” he commented.

For the city, the cannabis operation holds the promise of a significant cash infusion through the financial agreement reached by the two parties, City Manager Doug Dunford reported.

Dunford said he anticipates initial revenues to the city in the neighborhood of $500,000 for the first full year, and increasing in time to around $700,000. That is a significant boost to a city with a general fund budget of approximately $2 million.

Dunford said an annual, additional donation of $20,000 earmarked for community events or activities is promised as well.

Dunford and Villalobos said that development agreement and operating agreements spell out strict conditions and protocols which the business must meet in regard to security, odor control and other factors.

The business must also meet all terms of a conditional use permit, Dunford noted.

Dunford said he believes that the cannabis business can operate without negative impacts on the community.

“I have looked to other cities. Some of the things that (people) were afraid of or suggested might happen have not occurred in other cities,” he stated. “I think our city will follow suit.”

Villalobos emphasized that the business must meet the strict terms set forth in the agreements with the city - and as outlined by a state oversight agency.

“We will have armed security that will be at the check-in point. They will be watching the store itself. At night, we will have people patrolling and watching the place,” he explained.

Villalobos said security cameras will operate around the clock and can be accessed by Gustine police and by the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control.

“It is just like buying cigarettes or alcohol,” he commented. “You have to be 21 or older to purchase it; to even be in the parking lot.”

The retail store will operate from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week, every day of the year, Villalobos said. Delivery will be offered.

The immediate target market area is the West Side corridor from Los Banos to Newman, Villalobos explained, but he also anticipates the dispensary will benefit from the traffic passing through Gustine.

“We are in a beautiful spot, being on the highway,” he remarked. “We have a lot of people go through Gustine.”

The operations will be entirely out of the public eye, Villalobos stressed, although dispensary patrons can look in on one of the three grow rooms through a viewing window in the secure lobby area.

Villalobos said he anticipates starting with six to seven employees, a number that could double as the operation becomes fully established.

The cannabis micro-business has been some three years in the making, he added.

“I’m very excited to have this open and to bring this to Gustine,” Villalobos concluded. “I’m hoping to bring enough revenue here to help out (the city).”