Will Merced pot dispensary be too close to a school? One applicant thinks so

The four weed dispensaries that scored highest among a special committee in Merced were approved this week but not before a last-minute effort by the fifth-place finisher.

The controversy lies in whether fourth-place finisher Harvest of Merced, which was approved by the commission and fifth-place finisher Medallion Wellness, which was not approved, are within the 1,000-foot radius of a school.

Harvest at 863 W. 15th St. is just outside the radius of Wolfe Education Center, according to city staffers who used global positioning software to make the determination.

The Medallion proposed site at 808 W. 16th St. however was initially marked as too close to the educational center at 732 W. 13th St., according to city staffers.

Medallion’s team hired an independent surveyor, who they say found Medallion would be outside the radius, according to Zach Drivon, an attorney for Medallion. So city staffers allowed them to apply.

Drivon said Google Maps measurements show Harvest is too close to the educational center.

“To us, that indicates that this system has some issues,” he said.

A representative of the Harvest team, Ben Kimbro, called the effort a “sour grapes ambush.”

City staffers said Merced County Office of Education administration offices are not considered when measuring the radius. Only public or private classrooms of students aged from kindergarten to 12th grade, which does not include homeschooling, are considered.

Multiple planning commissioners said they trust city staffers and the precision of their software over Google.

The Wolfe Education Center offers a number of classes but they are all for adults, according to Nathan Quevedo, spokesperson for Merced County Office of Education. There is a nearby preschool, he said.

Nonetheless, Harvest was given the nod along with Blue Fire at 1975 W. Olive Ave., Green Door at 811 W. Main St. and Manzanita at 1594 W. 18th St. All four dispensaries will offer delivery, according to their business plans.

There is a five-day period to enter an appeal, according to city staffers. Any appeals would be heard by the Merced City Council. Twenty-two applicants submitted qualified bids.

Along with the permitting process, all four applicants plan upgrades to the buildings at those sites, according to Scott McBride, Merced’s director of development services. It’s likely to take several months before anyone can buy cannabis at a Merced dispensary.

“It’d be rushed to be open by the end of the year,” he said.