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Downtown Manteca goes to pot

Dispensary between ‘Tweaker Towers’ & ‘Heroin Hilton’

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Downtown Manteca goes to pot

A young man is all smiles as he leaves the recently opened marijuana dispensary at 311 West Yosemite Avenue with a brown paper bag in his hands.

GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin


POSTED March 5, 2010 1:59 a.m.
City leaders are in court this morning trying to obtain a temporary restraining order to stop a marijuana dispensary from peddling its wares in the storefront at 311 W. Yosemite that most recently housed the tea room known as “Tealicious.”

“We’re seeking to abate it as a nuisance,” said City Attorney John Brinton. “To dispense a controlled substance is a violation of federal law.”

The Manteca City Council late last year refused to consider adopting an ordinance making it legal to set up a medical dispensary in Manteca.

The owner of the dispensary is Lynn Smith of Stockton, according to city officials.  Smith has reportedly opened other marijuana dispensaries in the City of Stockton.  

Brinton said attorney Don Lupul is going before Judge Lesley Holland at 8:15 this morning in Department 13 of the San Joaquin County Superior Court in Stockton to seek an injunction – an ex parte, better known as a temporary restraining order – to close the shop until a hearing can be scheduled.
The District Attorney’s office reportedly said that if the business is truly a collaborative operation it will not prosecute, however the city’s position is that it is something else – a dispensary.

Police Chief Dave Bricker said that he sees the operation as a business and a dispensary which he feels is not legal under city, county and federal statutes, but still requiring the opinion of a judge.  

Police Sergeant Danny Erb said when the dispensary opened last Tuesday the owner claimed it was a pharmacy but they did not have require state licensing or a pharmacist on staff.  He asked them to voluntarily close until they could come up with the proper paper work.

Erb told the owner he was not in compliance with the city ordinance.  The business did choose to close late Thursday, but reopened on Monday.

Mayor Willie Weatherford confirmed Thursday afternoon that the Stockton man had no license to operate even as a retail business, let alone as a pharmacy noting the business was opened under false pretenses.

“Dispensaries are the new rage,” Sgt. Erb said.  “There is so much money to be made it’s ridiculous.  The physical exam takes less than 15 minutes and you have to get a new one every year at $250 per recommendation.  If a doctor can see 1,000 to 2,000 people a year, he doesn’t have to practice real medicine – and in a year he will see them all again.”

Erb called it a “farce with the sham doctors” who are doing it.  The dispensary supporters just want marijuana on the street, and the medical exams are where the real money is to be had, he said.

50 people claimed they have back pain, anxiety
“I’ve talked to some 50 people about this and they all told me the longest they were in the doctors’ offices is 15 minutes – having claimed anxiety and back pain,” Erb noted.

While authorities say Bay Area doctors are charging $250 for an exam and the recommendation letter, reports on Manteca streets say at least one doctor is charging $150 for the same service in Stockton.

“We are attempting to shut them down – if I can legally shut them down, I will,” Erb said. “I don’t believe it is a legal operation and I don’t believe it meets Proposition 215’s intent.”

The police sergeant added that if the laws are changed regarding medical marijuana dispensaries he would leave them alone.  However, he believes marijuana is a “gateway” drug that leads to the use of methamphetamine, heroin and associated crimes.

A delivery person walked into the Manteca Bulletin Thursday complaining about the marijuana dispensary that he noted was located between the “Tweaker Towers” and the “Heroin Hilton” – two downtown rooming house locations known over the years by police for drug activity between Main Street and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks.    

A Manteca Bulletin photographer observed youth between their late teens and early 20s going into the “members only Q&E Co-op” during the afternoon hours yesterday leaving the facility with brown paper bags in hand.  A security guard sat outside the front door where he met patrons and checked their paperwork before allowing them to enter the business with its frosted windows.

Merchants in the downtown business district were upset by the marijuana dispensary.

 “How did the city council and the city manager let this happen?” asked Brenda Franklin of Tipton’s Stationery. “Who is looking out for the quality of life for Manteca’s citizens?”

Most activity between 2 and 6 p.m.
Other merchants were aware of the new business and were keeping their eyes on the activity in the 300 block of West Yosemite Avenue noting that most of the patrons appeared to be in their late teens or early 20s and didn’t appear to have any visible disabilities.  Business owners said the traffic into the dispensary became quite heavy between 2 and 6 p.m. They also noted it is in an area used by Manteca High students to walk to and from school.

Erb said that if California is the first state to legalize marijuana there will be a long list of problems with a run of people coming across the borders just to take advantage of the new law.  Erb added that California is already recognized as the No. 1 welfare state drawing people from all over the country.  Legalized marijuana would just serve as another drawing card, he said.

“If they make it legal, I don’t know how the state will regulate it as it will open the door to a whole different bunch of rules and regulations,” he said.

He further questioned the need for the medical marijuana cards where individuals have to pay $200 plus to get a recommendation letter from a doctor.  Someone with a card is already allowed to grow plants for their own needs and have the leeway to transport it in their vehicles.  

Erb questioned the rationale in paying for it when a person can literally get it for free and not the $18 a gram that is reportedly being charged at the dispensary.

The dispensary building site at 311 West Yosemite – according to tax roles – is owned by Barbara Larson and Ed Machado. 
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