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Planning commission majority appears to favor more distance between dispensaries & areas youth congregate
pot shop
This is the inside of a marijuana dispensary.

Marijuana dispensaries — if allowed in Manteca — should be restricted to industrial zones, be in non-descript buildings with minimal signage, and located as far away as possible from childcare facilities, youth centers, schools, parks, and religious buildings.

That was the general consensus of the Manteca Planning Commission Thursday when they conducted a workshop regarding a city ordinance being drafted to make retail storefront sales legal in Manteca possibly as early as next year.

The majority of the commission stated their personal dislike for the idea of marijuana dispensaries being allowed in Manteca in sharp contrast to the direction the City Council appears to be leaning.

That echoed the sentiments of 10 speakers who were against retail sales for a variety of reasons. Several speakers — plus two commissioners — shared how marijuana use led them into more serious drug use. No one from the public at Thursday’s meeting were in favor of legal pot sales in Manteca except for a lawyer representing dispensary owners in nearby cities.

The public opposition at the meeting is also in sharp contrast with what had been voiced during a series of community workshops on the subject.

They could foreshadow pressure at the Nov. 18 planning commission meeting as well as the Dec. 7 and 21 City Council meetings when the actual ordinance is up for approval to either try and spike it or make the locations as restrictive as possible.

Even though they personally disagreed with the direction the council appears headed, commission members set that aside and targeted zoning-related concerns that they are asked to weigh when it comes to any proposed use in the city that comes before them.

Commissioner Jeff Zellner called it “shocking” that staff was even suggesting the state’s default 600 foot separation from established childcare facilities be reduced to 200 feet.  Zellner and several other commissions included speakers wanted to see the distance increased from the state default of 600 feet to as much as 1,000 feet from schools, youth centers, childcare facilities, parks, and such.

Lawyer for purveyors of sellers of legalized marijuana likely to seek one of the three permits the city is expected to allow voiced objection at a council workshop on the subject to tighter restrictions than the state default and advocated allowing retail pot sales in more city zones.

They noted imposing a 1,000-foot restriction from residential areas would make it extremely difficult if not impossible to secure locations for pot dispensaries in commercial zones in Manteca.

They want the city to allow pot sales in commercial mixed use zones that would essentially open up almost all of the Yosemite Avenue and Main Street corridors for the possible placement of dispensaries.

Commissioner Ron Laffranchi, who was among those for imposing tighter rules for where pot dispensaries can locate than what is being considered, said he did not want to see pot dispensaries in downtown or other commercial areas where there is heavy daily foot traffic of youth walking to and from school.

Commission Sean Randall, who first made the suggestion the city should restrict dispensaries to industrial zones, argued there was no need for anything but absolutely minimal signage as the location of pot dispensaries can be easily found via the Internet.

Zach Taylor, a lawyer representing a marijuana dispensary firm with multiple locations in nearby jurisdictions told the commission “this is not about regulating personal responsibility.”

He noted that adults and teens can easily score marijuana on the black market. He represents businesspeople that are willing to make investments in what is the state’s most regulated concern and follow the rules designed to reduce crime.

A number of the speakers were critical of the posture of Mayor Ben Cantu and others on the council who emphasized they favored allowing marijuana dispensaries as a way to increase municipal revenues.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email