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Retired law enforcement brass are playing roles in Manteca’s move to retail cannabis
Cannabis products for both medicinal and recreational use may now be sold at two Ceres dispensaries approved last year. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

A name that surfaced almost as often as the word “cannabis” during Monday’s City Council public hearing vetting that determined the three applicants being allowed to take the next steps to secure a permit for retail marijuana operations in Manteca was that of Nick Obligacion.

Obligacion is a retired Manteca police chief.

And he’s not the only retired Manteca police chief involved in the process. The others are Charlie Halford and Dave Bricker.

Halford was elected to the City Council in 2020.

Obligacion is with Embarc Manteca, one of the three successful applicants.

Bricker is on Embarc Manteca’s non-paid community advisory board.

All three, when they were police chiefs, were adamantly opposed to legalizing the recreational use of marijuana for those 21 and older.

And all three to this day are not what one would call boosters of non-medicinal marijuana.

Yet one — Halford — voted to allow what will be three storefront marijuana operations in Manteca.

Another — Obligacion — not only has worked with one applicant over the past three years to make sure they “do it right” but is also the most high-profile local face for Embarc Manteca.

And the other — Bricker — is basically part of a community oversight board to make sure Embarc  delivers on its community benefit commitments and drug education endeavors.

So what gives?

In the words of a rank-and-file Manteca Police officer “it is what it is.”

By that he means the legalized use of marijuana by those over 21 — just like the consumption of alcohol — is not going away.

That pragmatic attitude is taken a step further by the three retired police chiefs.

Based on public comments over the past three years primarily by Halford and Obligacion, it is clear they are driven by a number of things:

*The desire to make sure it is done right in Manteca as opposed to some jurisdictions that “rushed” into it.

*The fact those visiting retail pot stores tend to be law-abiding citizens who clearly were getting marijuana from other sources prior to it being legal to buy in California.

*Given legal retail marijuana is so highly regulated it is not lining the pockets of drug cartels and gangs.

*The regulated process has virtually ironclad protections against harmful toxics making its way into what is sold.

*The products are sold in highly secure and safe stores as opposed to on the streets, in alleys, or at “drug houses” in questionable areas.

*The state-mandated security measures — augmented by what Manteca is also requiring — have a proven track record of reducing crime in the same general area cannabis stores are located.

*The city is dealing with crimes connected with illegal marijuana sales as well as other illegal drugs without being able to cover the costs from the sizable assessments placed on legal cannabis sales.

That means Manteca residents —  based on data gleaned by the state showing some 12,000 of its residents 21 and older have visited cannabis stores in nearby jurisdictions — are dropping considerably large sums of tax dollars that are helping Modesto and other cities and not Manteca.

An Embarc spokesman said the firm that has 10 retail cannabis stores in California  — including one that opened this week in Tracy — with a dozen others moving forward, deliberately sought out Obligacion.

The reason, he said Monday, was because of what they viewed as strong concerns within the Manteca community about the security of retail cannabis operations plus making sure state rules about no one under 21 being allowed access are stridently enforced.

All four applicants had met the basic state requirements for security and customer screening as well as the additional steps the city required.

Working with Obligacion, they added additional layers of security.

As a result, Embarc Manteca’s location in the 1200 block of South Main Street will have more than 50 security cameras and a security officer on site 24/7.

And just like the other applicants, they will provide live security camera feed to the Manteca Police Department dispatch center.

Obligacion, for his part, noted the more he looked into Embarc, the more he was convinced they were the right fit to address community concerns.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email