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Even Puff the Magic Dragon knows marijuana dispensaries in Manteca are about the money

It’s time to lay all the cards on the table.

Marijuana dispensaries are all about the money — nothing more, nothing less.

In fact the attorney representing clients chomping at the bit to secure one of three marijuana dispensary permits the City of Manteca will soon be dangling in front of people that need skip loaders to move their money has all but said that is the case.

At Thursday’s cannabis workshop at the Planning Commission the gentlemen stated the obvious. Any adult and any teen, if they set their mind to it, can secure marijuana on the black market.

What he didn’t say was that any adult can grow their own marijuana and there are ways those under 21 can procure some of that stuff.

Storefront marijuana sales won’t change that. What it will change is the City of Manteca will partner with the purveyors of marijuana to get a cut of the action.

There is no other way to describe it as, contrary to Mayor Ben Cantu’s claim that he sees medical dispensaries as just like any other business, nothing could be farther from the truth.

That’s because the City of Manteca is not just going to require marijuana dispensaries to collect one cent per $1 in general sales tax and a half-cent over $1 in public safety tax on every retail transaction that will be stuffed into the proverbial municipal treasury. Instead they are going to take a cut of the action as they do with every other business in the city. And given how they are salivating at the thought it’s going to be a healthy cut that is likely to make those running protection rackets envious.

And that cut is going to fund all sorts of wonderful things, right? Well what are they? Why isn’t the city committing more specifically how they want to spend the community benefit cut they want future marijuana dispensaries to send their way?

Well, as city administrations and elected councils have been saying for 30 plus years just trust them. Instead of marijuana sales being pushed as helping fund making Manteca a better place to live, we were told the Manteca municipal government’s preferred drug of choice — housing growth — would bring the city all sorts of wonderful amenities we could only dream about before.

That’s worked out pretty well, hasn’t it?

Given the track record it is a safe bet to expect the money to go toward hiring consultants, paying off six-figure settlements when they force department heads out, and being socked away for a rainy day in such a manner that they wake up one day and can’t make heads or tails of what they were pigeonholing $68 million for.

This sounds a tad cynical but there hasn’t been a peep out of one city official, elected or pulling down six figures, about what percentage of the pot business profits they’re going to skim off under color of the law and what they want to out it toward.

Well, that’s not exactly true. They said it will go to augment the general fund. That means it is going to go down a black hole somewhere on the Manteca Civic Center campus where all of the other money disappeared that was supposed to get the community a new library, a new city hall, a youth sports complex and community center, performing arts center, and more.

If that sounds cynical it’s because it reflects the reality on the ground that’s been around for 30 plus years as Mayor Cantu likes to remind everyone.

The purge was supposed to change all that. But in reality the city hasn’t offered anything in exchange for people to trust them. North Main Street is a prime example.

Four times in 16 years five people dutifully elected by citizens to provide direction have decided Main Street needs to be four lanes. And four times, after plans have been drawn or a project is ready to go to bid, staff does a predictable Lucy act at the last second and pulls the football away to turn Charlie Brown — aka  city councils — into chumps.

If you haven’t noticed Lucy always has a different personality when the ball is yanked. That’s because it has been done during the tenure of four different city managers. Any bets on whether a fifth ball yank is being teed up?

It is why there isn’t a lot of faith in some quarters about whether the city will be able to live up to promises of staying on top of marijuana dispensaries. It’s great that we are told marijuana dispensaries will have completely open books so city management can account for every penny. But given the city couldn’t do the same thing for more than five years with their own books it doesn’t exactly instill confidence.

Several residents on Thursday got dangerously close to knocking down the house of cards the city keeps adding on to. They asked how the city will be able to keep its end of the bargain on keeping dispensaries secure given not very many people out there are confident the city currently has an adequate police presence.

There will come a point where the continued shortchanging of Manteca’s Police Department — exhibit one is manpower, exhibition two is the fact the community-based outreach to prevent crime has never returned to pre-2010 levels and exhibit three is the most pathetic police station one can imagine — will cause those cards to collapse.

What is the plan? Spreckels Park jacked up revenue flow. Great Wolf is jacking up revenue flow. Marijuana dispensaries will jack up revenue flow. And what does the city have to show for it?

The way the city has made more than a few people jaded based on the track record that, once again, Cantu labors heavily to remind us of, you can understand why there are people leery of the entire marijuana dispensary thing.

It really shouldn’t be that way. People should love others who indulge to pay sin taxes — or should we say community benefit sin receipts — to help pay for city services so they can avoid an increase in tax rates.

The skepticism sharpened by the city’s chronic pattern of overpromising and under delivering spells over into concerns about allowed zones for marijuana dispensaries being tossed about.

It begs a question no one has asked. If marijuana dispensaries operating under the watchful eye of the City of Manteca will be so secure, so safe, and so inconspicuous that it will not only be like they are not there but will raise the proverbial tide of businesses around them, why not allow them in the city’s favorite zone — the family entertainment zone.

Jim Todd has the answer for that question.


 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