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Reefer madness creating a buzz in downtown Manteca

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POSTED March 5, 2010 1:48 a.m.
Half a block from where youngsters frolic in Library Park’s interactive water play feature when the weather warms is an ominous looking storefront.

You cannot see what is inside as you drive by on Yosemite Avenue that serves as the most high-profile thoroughfare of a town that many still like to describe by the decades-old municipal motto proclaiming Manteca “The Family City.”

It is here where the trade of undermining the laws of society is doing a brisk business. Downtown is alive with new foot traffic and it isn’t the type of clientele that brings retail rebirth. Instead, it is about getting high.

The former tea room where the biggest buzz was once from caffeinated tea is now a marijuana medical co-op, or so claim the owners.

Forget the fact of little nuances in Proposition 215 that give local jurisdictions the option of allowing such purveyors of medical marijuana to open within their city limits. When asked to sponsor such a measure in Manteca, proponents were met not on just one occasion but twice with stony silence from the City Council. So what else do law abiding citizens do? They forge ahead with their money making venture brazenly ignoring state law that makes it a local option while at the same time not even bothering to get a business license. Welcome to the wild, wild world of pot profiteering.

This should be a warning of what you can expect if voters in November completely legalize marijuana in California. The same backers of Proposition 215 that legalized medical marijuana who had promised to live within the law as adopted are the ones who have shredded the envelope. They are now pushing for everyone to be able to buy pot legally.

They needn’t bother. A look at the steady stream of clientele going in and out of “Q&E Co-op” shows it is already happening unless, of course, you believe that this is the most pain ridden and high anxiety generation of 20-Somethings and those slightly younger ever to walk the earth.

Manteca’s city attorney is going to court today to try and get a temporary injunction. Rest assured that regardless of what happens, Manteca is about to become a jumping off point for the drive to legalize marijuana in November.

It is ironic fact that just about 40 years ago the late Trena Kelley led the charge against cigarette machines being accessible to school children on the way home on the very same street where the self-proclaimed medical marijuana dispensary can be found. That led to Manteca being the first city in California – and one of the first nationally – to outlaw cigarette vending machines to any place that allowed those 18 and under on the premises. She also led a spirited protest that got a “head shop” that opened in the 1970s along Yosemite to close its doors. Today, there is a head shop and a medical dispensary thriving in downtown Manteca.

California law illogically allows drug paraphernalia to be sold but outlaws the drugs that they are used to consume.

Rest assured in the coming days that some defenders of those behind the dispensary in Manteca will note that there are other dispensers of drugs in the downtown area from a discount cigarette shop to three bars.

It is a far cry, though, from the days when the central area has almost a dozen bars and cigarette smoking seemed to be Manteca’s No. 1 pastime.

That, however, is not the point. We are a nation of laws. We don’t pick and chose the ones we wish to follow. The avenue exists for change and it is being exercised in November.

It is clear that the overwhelming consumption of pot today is for people using it to get a buzz. It explains why the City of Los Angeles is home to 900 medical pot clubs thanks to regulations governing prescriptions that are so loose that they defy logic.

People left and right abuse Proposition 215 which isn’t exactly a strong selling point to embrace a ballot measure in November designed to open the rest of the barn door.

None of this should surprise you – including a Manteca cannabis dispensary - given the fact just 60 miles away a massive 15,000-square-foot store in Oakland known as  iGrow caters to medical marijuana users who want to grow their own although they don’t sell any actual pot.

It’ll be interesting to see whether the city can nip this in the bud.
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