Mayor Ben Cantu fulfilled a campaign promise by convincing a majority of the City Council to have the city explore allowing storefront marijuana sales and possibly even cannabis testing labs and related commercial operations in Manteca.
None of the four council members that voted to form an ad hoc committee said they were sold outright on the idea. However Councilman Dave Breitenbucher, the lone dissenter, made it clear he opposes allowing any legal sales or commercial marijuana ventures within the city limits.
“I really don’t think we want to be the first (city) in the county to go down this road,” Breitenbucher said, noting it was contrary to values he would expect elected leaders in a community that prides itself as the Family City to pursue.
In contrast to Cantu who said he was approached about allowing legal sales during the council campaign, Breitenbucher said those that talked to him were adamantly against the idea.
Breitenbucher shared research that showed the illegal use of marijuana by teens jumped in states that have allowed legal recreational sales for longer than California. He also noted that the Journal of American Psychiatrists reported a 25 percent increase in cases in Colorado involving youth between 12 and 17 years of age.
Cannabis disorder refers to compulsive use of marijuana that leads to harmful side effects.
Breitenbucher added he understood there are medical benefits from marijuana use but said that should best be left in the hands of medical professionals.
Breitenbucher said if anything the council should be looking at is banning vaping.
“It’s not like it’s not here already,” Cantu said of marijuana sales that are being done illegally. “It’s already here.”
As for research, Cantu said as far as legal marijuana was concerned “frankly there is more positive for it than negative.”
Councilman Gary Singh — who along with Jose Nuño will serve on the council ad hoc committee — said he was hoping “to at least keep our minds open . . . It’s not going away. It’s legal in the state.”
Singh added the city is leaving money on the table that it could collect from legal marijuana sales. And while he agreed the revenue hasn’t been living up to projections in other jurisdictions that allow legal storefront marijuana sales such as Modesto, the city could help to reduce illegal sales and capture more income as well.
A lawyer representing three legal marijuana businesses in Stanislaus County spoke in favor of allowing legal marijuana sales in Manteca.
The only other member of the public to speak — Manteca resident Wendy Benavides — said she “strongly opposes” the move adding “this is the Family City.”
“I think we would be opening up a can of worms,” she said.
Benavides said it will cost more in enforcement for the city. She also cites jurisdictions where crime went up.
The lawyer said his clients have books that are open to audit at any time by state officials and that they have complied 100 percent with state and Modesto laws.
Singh and Nuño vowed to research all aspects of legal sales in other jurisdictions from how they are structured, problems they have created and how they can be avoided, as well as revenue projections.
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