Leticia Barriga was able to purchase her medicine in Stockton June 1 for the first time in eight months.
The 36-year-old Manteca resident held a small paper bag Friday morning containing two lollipops, a bottle of cannabis gel caps, a package of cookies and a pre-rolled marijuana cigarette.
Total cost: $44.20, an amount Barriga considers a small price to pay to ease her nausea from irritable-bowel syndrome and her discomfort from sciatic-nerve damage.
"I can't take any sort of pills," Barriga said. "They hurt my stomach and make me sick. I'd rather smoke flowers than take any other form of medicine. They don't have any side effects."
The scene was inside Port City Health & Wellness, which quietly opened its doors in mid May and at the moment is the sole medical-marijuana dispensary in Stockton, which in 2011 passed an ordinance governing the drug's distribution.
Actually, Port City has reopened its doors.
The dispensary first opened last year at its location in an office building on Fremont Street just north of the Interstate 5 overpass. It did not remain open for long, voluntarily shutting its doors after two weeks amid a crackdown on dispensaries by the federal government.
But the rapidly evolving political landscape of the medical-marijuana issue made conditions favorable for Port City to reopen May 17, said Max Del Real, a consultant to the dispensary. Del Real works as a lobbyist on the cannabis issue. In addition to California, Del Real said 16 states and the District of Columbia allow the dispensing of medical marijuana, and 10 more states may legalize it in the next year.
"Today we have a very different sort of situation," Del Real said. "California and the state Legislature have pushed back against the federal government and said that medical cannabis is real, medical cannabis is legal and medical cannabis is welcome in California, and that includes Stockton."
As required by the city's ordinance, a security guard was posted outside Port City on Friday morning. Immediately inside the front door is an intake area where patients' eligibility to purchase the medicine is checked before they are allowed to enter.
With bright lighting, big-screen televisions and a long sales counter, the dispensary's sales floor somewhat resembles the concession area at the local multiplex theater.
The background music, however, is reggae rather than Muzak. Instead of candy, the shelves are loaded with 'Rocky Mt. High Bars' and 'White and Black Rabbit Cookies.' Rather than sodas, the cooler chills bottles of 'Grape Galaxy,' 'Orange Orbit' and 'Paradise Punch.' The display case contains different strains of marijuana like 'Sweet Island Skunk,' 'God's Gift' and 'Jack the Ripper.'
"It's not going to put you to sleep," Port City product specialist Chris Formoso said of 'Jack the Ripper.' "It's going to be good for mild to moderate pain."
When Port City reopened, manager Michael Carlson said, it notified everyone in its database of about 700 former patients. Carlson said 30 to 35 patients have been visiting on a typical day since the reopening seeking relief from physical pain, depression, insomnia and the side effects of cancer treatment.
Over time, Port City plans to expand its offerings beyond medical cannabis. Massage therapy, healthy cooking classes and grow-your-own lessons may be upcoming.
But as Barriga did her shopping Friday morning, Port City's core function was evident. After browsing the inventory, she asked Formoso about the bottles of gel caps in the display case.
"Drop it in warm water," Formoso told her. "It will melt, and you can drink it like tea."
Barriga, sold on the idea, added a bottle of gel caps to her purchase and said she is pleased Port City is open again. It means she no longer has to drive to Sacramento or the Bay Area to stock up on her supplies.
"I was coming here before they shut down," Barriga said. "I'm happy they're back here."