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Don’t be surprised if future Manteca cannabis storefronts offer discounts to AARP members
cannabis edit cartoon

It is a fair question.

Why did Councilman Charlie Halford — given he is a retired Manteca police chief who for 32 years willingly put his life on the line to assure community safety —  provide what was arguably one of the two “swing” votes needed  to put the “Family City” on the path to having legalized storefront cannabis sales?

The short answers:

*Legalized marijuana is highly regulated from seed to sale to assure the safety of consumers.

*There are at least 7,000 people in Manteca — based on required tracking at Modesto dispensaries — who make treks of 15 miles or more one way to legally purchase cannabis products.

*The majority of Manteca voters casting votes on state and county initiatives backed such sales.

*A legal cannabis industry well-regulated by a city not only provides a safe way for law-abiding residents that want to purchase marijuana for recreational use or medicinal reasons but they operate as among  the most secure  — and therefore the safest — businesses.

*The city is allowing what is essentially “retail bleed” of taxable consumer dollars Manteca residents spend as those taxes support municipal services in Modesto at the expenses of Manteca.

To be clear, Halford is not a fan of marijuana nor is Jose Nuño, the other councilman that was sitting on the fence for a while.

 Nuno’s thinking is similar to Halford, noting he was elected to make decisions for the community while weighing his constituents’ wishes. Talking that pragmatic approach, Nuno, just like Halford, after a lot of contemplation, put his personal views aside and voted to support tightly controlled legal marijuana sales points in Manteca.

Illegal marijuana production and sales clearly has the criminal element involved to varying degrees. There is no doubt about that.

It also is where the environmental damage from illegal grows come into play.

That is simply not the case for legal marijuana grown, processed, and sold in California.

And, yes, it costs more than it does on the streets.

But here’s the rub. Legal marijuana has a virtually ironclad certainty of being free of toxic chemicals or is grown in such a manner that it doesn’t ravage the environment in a manner that’s any worse than an almond orchard.

That is not the case for illegal grows.

Taking the 7,000 number as being representative of the number of known adults in Manteca who legally purchase marijuana in Modesto for personal consumption, that is 7,000 law-abiding people the city is forcing to drive elsewhere to secure legal products.

Perhaps it is no big deal they are inconvenienced

But if we’re worried about “carbon footprint” does it make sense having those 7,000 people burn at least three gallons of gasoline more a month — 21,000 gallons overall at a cost approaching $84,000 — to purchase a legal product that entrepreneurs are willing to sell in Manteca by following extensively municipal regulations?

Again, to be clear, these are real consumers willing to pay the price to buy cannabis not in some shady  transaction in a parking lot but in a clear, well-lit and secure store that offers a wide variety of choices as opposed to the limited and questionable quality whatever drug dealers and ultimately cartels are pushing.

They are not financing the cartel bloodbaths and an underworld where people labor in unsafe conditions for less than minimum wage to grow and process marijuana.

And they clearly are willing to pay the market price for legal pot products.

Assume each of those 7,000 people spend $100 a month for marijuana products at a legal storefront in Modesto.

That, by the way, is less than  a third of what a pack-a-day habit costs a cigarette smoker.

A $100 a month expenditure before sales tax translates into $8.4 million a year.

That equates to $84,000 as Manteca one cent cut of the state’s 7.25 percent sales tax. That also means $42,000 in Measure M public safety tax receipts, and $42,000 in Measure K countywide road and transit tax receipts.

The big source of municipal funding, of course, is through the community benefit agreement  (CBA).

Leafly, that tracks what California cities “tax” marijuana sales through community benefit agreements, notes that Modesto has essentially a $33.98 levy on top of the marijuana product that is purchased.

Take off the universal sales taxes and the 15 percent State of California Cannabis Excise Tax and you are left with roughly a $10 tax (10 percent) that is paid on top of the product price.

That means 7,000 Manteca consumers buying $100  of legal pot products a month from  a local storefront will pay collectively $70,000 a month in CBA “taxes” on top of sales taxes.

Given the regulatory fee that is collapsed into the cost of the product that covers additional police and finance department staffing to monitor the three location the city will initially allow, Manteca would have $840,000 more in its general fund each year.

Keep in mind that consuming $100 worth of marijuana a month is on the low side. While it could easily be double that and the number of legal marijuana purchases end up higher especially if Manteca attracts them from nearby communities that don’t allow sales, $840,000 on top of other local sales tax is clearly a very conservative number.

The city — to be clear— has yet to negotiate a CBA deal and therefore set what would effectively be a local excise tax on legal marijuana sales.

Yes, some cannabis storefronts are likely to go out of business but they will be in Modesto, not in Manteca.

A real eye opener for Halford who spent some time observing the flow of customers in various Modesto cannabis store parking lots — or anyone for that matter that has visited a highly regulated, well-lit and well-funded marijuana store — is the age of the clientele.

There are few in their 20s. And there is a more than a healthy number of people who could legally be card carrying members of the American Association of Retired Persons.

Marijuana can be a wolf in sheep’s clothing for some. There is no doubt about that.

But it is clear that legal marijuana sales and illegal marijuana sales are two different animals.


This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at