Jordan Vas bought a marijuana plant last month for his home in Parlier. He admits he doesn't have a green thumb, but tending his own crop is his strategy for getting marijuana as Fresno County's ban on dispensaries begins.
"I've never grown anything in my life," said Vas, who has long used pot for back pain. "But now there's no other way."
This week marks the end of the grace period for 15 or so medical marijuana dispensaries that were given six months to shut down after Fresno County's prohibition took effect. With most shops pledging to close, if they haven't already, thousands of users have begun looking for other ways to get the drug.
Many were in lines that formed outside the remaining dispensaries the past two weeks, stocking up while they could. Some were drawn to closeout promotions, such as markdowns on Mr. Nice and Blue Dream marijuana strains or raffles that promised free medicine.
Several shoppers said they had been contacting friends who sell the drug to arrange for future supplies. Others said they'll drive to places where dispensaries are open, such as Oakland or San Jose, to get marijuana. Some were hopeful that a few local shops will remain, even if it's on the hush-hush or for private delivery.
Local authorities, meanwhile, are vowing to crack down. The Sheriff's Office said it will make sure existing businesses close and step up efforts against street trade, continuing what both sides acknowledge has become a game of cat-and-mouse as the legal landscape for marijuana has constantly shifted.
"It's just a mess," Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said. "It's definitely not been easy to enforce the law."
For now, momentum is with the sheriff. The new county ordinance paves the way for code enforcement to begin against dispensaries that remain open after Thursday, and federal authorities are lending support. The U.S. attorney's office has sent letters to several county properties where dispensaries operate and dozens of others across the Valley ordering marijuana sales to cease.
In October, federal agents went as far as shutting down two county dispensaries: one in Friant and one in the Tarpey Village neighborhood.
Dispensary operator Sean Dwyer, who closed his Fig Garden storefront just last week, said a November letter from the U.S. attorney's office sealed his decision.
"When you have the feds enforcing your local ordinance, there's not much you can do," Dwyer said. "How are you going to pay for a decent attorney if all your assets have been seized?"
Dwyer sent his customers a text message last week, alerting them of his final days. The message motivated many to make one last shopping trip.
"I said, 'Holy crap!' when I saw the text," said Harriette Schwartz, a California Herbal Relief Center customer. "I thought, 'How am I going to get my medicine now?' "
The 61-year-old Fresno resident uses marijuana to treat inflammation from hip bursitis. She remained unsure last week where she would make her next purchase and how she would deal with her pain.
Brenda Linder, an attorney who has represented several dispensaries, said her clients had been prepared to fight the county ordinance on grounds that it ran counter to state law. But with the federal officials now enforcing federal law, Linder said, dispensaries no longer had a case.
"It doesn't make it a good option to fight locally when the federal government is going to shut them down anyway," she said. "I'm disappointed my clients didn't have the opportunity to file a lawsuit. The county ordinance, I believe, is illegal and unconstitutional on so many levels."
Still, many dispensary managers are expecting marijuana laws to change yet again and allow them to get back in business.
The county Board of Supervisors approved the ban on storefront dispensaries in September in response to complaints about noise, traffic and bad behavior at and around the dispensaries.