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Cantu sees Manteca revisiting marijuana storefronts

Could the Manteca City Council soon consider the possibility of allowing cannabis dispensaries to operate within the city limits?

Mayor Ben Cantu seems to think so. 

During his first live question and answer session on Facebook since taking office, Cantu – who used the platform extensively during the campaign to get his message out to prospective voters – told viewers to “stay tuned” when asked about the issue of cannabis in the community. 

He failed to elaborate further, even when asked a second time by forum moderator and campaign manager David Cushman. 

Currently the City of Manteca does not allow cannabis dispensaries to operate within the city limits – a prohibition that started even before California voters approved it for recreational use in 2016. Prior to the statewide referendum, patients in California could qualify for a card under “compassionate use” grounds if they had a prescription from a doctor, and businesses catering to those clients could operate under parameters outlined by the state in conjunction with the law. 

The lone dispensary that did operate within Manteca’s city limits – which was located Downtown at 311 W. Yosemite Avenue – was shuttered shortly after it opened in 2010 when the city sought a legal injunction against the business. The city initially sought a temporary restraining order, and City Attorney John Brinton said at the time that the city would try to “abate it as a nuisance” after it opened up under the guise of a “pharmacy” but didn’t have any of the licensed pharmacy staff necessary to operate under that use designation. The development incensed downtown business owners who railed against the city for letting it happen, and the business never did reopen after the city won in court. 

Since then, the city has taken a hardline stance against cannabis – which, despite being legalized for recreational use in a number of states is still regarded as a Schedule 1 narcotic by the Drug Enforcement Administration – and has taken steps to not only prevent dispensaries and delivery services from operating within the city, but also banned the cultivation of marijuana, even by those who had a valid California prescription. 

Both the City of Lathrop and the County of San Joaquin enacted similar prohibitions against cultivation, but many of those laws were relaxed to comply with Proposition 64 – the Adult Use of Marijuana Act that passed in the 2016 election with 57.1 percent of the vote. 

A number of Cantu’s supporters have been vocal on social media since the election about making the cannabis issue a priority for the council, although he did not specify exactly when the council would take the matter up for consideration, or what the cannabis discussion would fully entail. 

Last month the State of California announced new rules regarding the delivery of cannabis products that would have allowed for delivery to take place even within cities that had previously banned the practice. A number of residents spoke out in favor of allowing for deliveries when the council had previously considered the matter – citing the inability to drive to neighboring communities like Stockton or Modesto and noting that some residents with valid marijuana cards such as teachers wanted to take advantage of the discreet service – but the council voted against the proposal. 

The new California rules are currently on hold now that a legal challenge has been filed against it, and existing prohibition ordinances remain valid across the state until a ruling is handed down. 

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.