Manteca Mayor Ben Cantu is wrong.
Marijuana dispensaries done right are not just like any other business.
In many ways they are better than many other businesses.
That is not a reference to what they sell but what how they sell it.
If you set aside your biases — I can’t stand the smell of the stuff and am as likely to use it as I would smoke a cigarette or drink alcohol which I have done neither so far in 65½ years — marijuana dispensaries aren’t a modern take on dens of inequities.
Step into Authentic 209 Marijuana on McHenry Avenue in Modesto and see for yourself.
It’s the one in the clean reserved looking multiple gray tone building with white accents that you might miss because there is no massive “in-your-face” sign with a 40-foot blinking neon marijuana leaf such as ones Councilman Charlie Halford wants to make sure aren’t allowed in Manteca.
The parking lot is clean and there is highly visible security outside.
Enter the lobby/reception area that is the polar opposite of seedy and you can’t enter unless you’re 21. The cleanliness and pleasant decor as well as extensive security — technical and physical — help put you at ease.
An attendant scans the driver’s license of the customer that will be purchasing product.
Once that is finished and the showroom is below the maximum allowed customers, you are ushered in by a security guard.
You’d be hard pressed to find a retail business in Manteca, or anywhere for that matter, that is as spacious and pleasant looking.
Various marijuana products are behind glass cases that double as counters. You deal with the same clerk that answers questions, picks out selections, and rings up your purchase.
High definition cameras throughout record everything including those directed at the point of sale where cash exchanges hands.
The one thing that Authentic 209 didn’t have a role in how it was presented was the clientele.
They ran the gamut from the 20s to those who qualified for Social Security years ago.
No one was disheveled or unkempt. There was a clear vibe of honest working class and middle class sensibilities.
Authentic 209 clearly isn’t Cheech and Chong’s pot store nor is there a whiff of the marijuana counterculture born on the streets of San Francisco’s Haight-Asbury neighborhood in 1967.
It’s a serious business.
They are clearly following the rules and then some. To do otherwise would cause them to quickly lose a permit to mine proverbial gold from the pockets of customers. And anything but classy, clean, and comfortable would keep many purchasers away.
Manteca needs to employ the standards Modesto has and then some when they decide to allow medical marijuana dispensaries.
Between the 24-hour physical security presence, overall passive and tech security, and the rigid manner in which sales are handled it is easy to see how the counterintuitive happens in that crime in the immediate area goes down.
One can only imagine how much less crime and blight there would be if all businesses operated under the same stringent standards.
It is able to happen with marijuana dispensaries for one basic reason. They are more regulated than any other retailer. It runs the gamut from who they can hire, how products are constantly tested, how they can sell it, to where they can sell it.
That’s all and fine, you might say but what about keeping it from being sold to those 21 and under?
Given what is at stake, the security redundancies built in, and a typical marijuana dispensary having more security cameras in place than a dozen Best Buy stores have in stock the odds are slim to none it will happen.
It is why Oakland Police officials have repeatedly said they are more concerned with minors being able to buy alcohol at a liquor store than someone under 21 being sold marijuana at a dispensary.
If someone under 21 scores marijuana they already do so via the black market, growing their own, or being supplied by parents. And in all honestly the pricing alone of a legal dispensary is certainly out of the league of most teens.
The concern, of course, is a teen heading home from Sierra, Manteca, East Union or Calla high schools would be able to nonchalantly walk into a dispensary and buy marijuana. It isn’t going to happen.
This is not the 1950s to 1970s.
That is when teens could score cigarettes at vending machines in restaurant foyers and other locations when no one was looking.
It is what happened in Manteca when students heading home from classes at Manteca High would duck into the entry foyer at what is now Johnny’s Restaurant to feed a bunch of quarters into a vending machine and walk away with a pack of smokes.
It is what led a PTA leader at the time by the name of Trena Kelley to mount a successful campaign to get the City of Manteca to ban cigarette vending machines from locations where they were accessible to youth.
Manteca was among a handful of cities in the country to lead the charge to put such restrictions in place.
Kelley went on to become the first woman to be elected to the City Council and then the first directly elected mayor in Manteca history.
Marijuana dispensaries done right do not create “accidental” opportunities for youth to obtain marijuana from a legal source.
That covers everything from using a fake driver’s license to shoplifting that are a common way beer and other alcohol products are obtained illegally by youth.
And while the protocols call for stepped up police oversight the revenue dispensaries generate for a city’s general fund will more than cover those costs.
One doesn’t have to embrace marijuana use in any form to concede the measures Manteca is taking to make sure marijuana from a permitted dispensary in the city limits can’t be obtained by youth are 10 times more robust than back in the days when the city allowed cigarettes to be sold to any kid with a pocket full of change to plunk into a vending machine.
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 email@example.com