Big changes are coming to Manteca in 2023.
Among them is Manteca residents will be able to shop locally for what may be a medical need or the rough equivalent of the act of grabbing a six-pack of beer.
That’s because the city expects to issue permits for Manteca’s first three marijuana dispensaries sometime in the new year.
The current council approved the enabling ordinance 11 months ago.
Staff, at the time, said to expect a long vetting process in order that things will be done right,.
Depending on where you stand this is either good, bad or a gigantic shrug.
Those who are indifferent likely represent the prevailing thought.
That said, there are strong feelings on both sides of the fence.
Charlie Halford, who has reservations about marijuana, was one of four council members supporting the move.
It stems from his nearly three-decade law enforcement career capped with his serving as Manteca police chief.
After inspecting how existing dispensaries are operated and regulated, Halford concluded it made sense to regulate and control what marijuana sales the city could.
It was a nod to the real truth in the claim proponents made that somehow legalizing marijuana sales in California would greatly reduce illegal pot grows and affiliated criminal activities which has not been the reality.
The highly tracked seed-to-sale system in place in California assures that the marijuana sold in licensed stores is not only legally grown” and pays required taxes, but it is also safe to consume.
That in itself would likely have garnered voter support.
But like with every other political initiative, the backers — regardless of how non-political they claimed they were — couldn’t help themselves and engaged in embellishment.
Marijuana, they argued, is no different than alcohol.
It is a vice — or has medicinal purposes on varying levels — and can impair judgment.
But in their desire to convince the undecided to support the ballot measure they dumped massive vats of rhetoric painting it as harmless for adults when compared to alcohol and cigarettes.
Even when backers were lobbying the council they repeatedly referenced marijuana smoking not being as dangerous as tobacco smoking even if it is consumed in moderation.
This may come as a surprise to radiologists at Ottawa Hospital in Ontario who helped conduct a study that was printed Tuesday in the journal “Radiology”.
The research hasn’t received wide play perhaps because of the never-ending election drama and its continued aftermath.
Or maybe it didn’t get much traction because it doesn’t fit the narrative of “marijuana good, tobacco bad.”
The radiologists’ study focused on emphysema and airway inflammation.
There were 146 people in the study.
Almost half of the 56 marijuana smokers had mucus blocking airways that were spotted on chest scans. It was less common among those in the study that did not smoke marijuana including those who smoke tobacco but not pot.
Of those 56 marijuana smokers, 50 also smoked tobacco.
The rates of emphysema for age-matched participants in the study was as follows:
*93 percent for marijuana smokers.
*67 percent for tobacco-only smokers.
*7 percent for the control group of non-smokers.
Albert Rizzo, the America Lung Association’s chief medical officer and who was not involved with the study, said inhaling any heated substance can irritate airways.
Rizzo added, based on the study and other data that there could be additional impacts when one smokes cigarettes as well as marijuana.
More to the point, radiologist Giselle Revah who helped conduct the study is quoted as saying, “There is a public perception that marijuana is safe and people think that it is safer than cigarettes. This study raises concerns that might not be true.”
That is the bottom line.
In the push to legalize marijuana a false narrative emerged that snowballed that marijuana smoking per se is significantly less harmful than cigarette smoking.
That assumption was made in a vacuum. There is tons of research on cigarette smoking and a relative dearth of it on marijuana smoking.
That is the case because — as Rizzo notes — marijuana’s illegal status has discouraged significant research into its long-term effects.
Before 1900 there were those that believed tobacco had worthwhile medicinal purposes just like marijuana.
Tobacco leaves were applied, and even ground, to treat various ailments. Smoking was believed to relieve stress and even pain.
Modern studies show such relief to be fleeting and out of proportion in the long-term side impacts.
The act of smoking tobacco eventually was ostracized.
The same thing one day could happen to smoking marijuana once research of the long-term impacts go into overdrive.
This is not meant to slam marijuana smoking.
There will always be unhealthy adult vices.
They become problematic and life threatening when they aren’t used in moderation.
Marijuana in that sense is no different than tobacco and alcohol.
If not done in moderation and not abused all three substances can lead to health problems.
Worse yet, they are problems that can threaten the well-being of other people.
Second-hand smoke is an obvious impact of cigarettes smoking.
With drinking and marijuana smoking it is what the short-term “buzz” can do in terms of relaxing reaction time once either substance is consumed past a certain level. The same is true of medications, prescribed and over the counter.
Marijuana in that sense is indeed no less dangerous than alcohol or cigarettes but it can also be as dangerous due to false assumptions on its impacts.
Alcohol is not going to be outlawed nor are cigarettes.
The day is coming universally in the United States when marijuana won’t be either.
That still doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be restrictions on the age of who can buy and use them and where you can consume them.
And it also means those promoting the use of alcohol, cigarettes or marijuana have a responsibility not to present them as harmless substances.
They are not going away.
Given the potential harm excess or improper use they can inflict on the people who use them and those that come in contact with them, they are vices that society needs to regulate and control.
That is the greatest justification — as Halford pointed out — for legalized storefront marijuana sales for more than just medicinal purposes.
It is not a half-baked decision to allow legal storefront sales that implies marijuana isn’t harmful.
It was one that earned Halford’s support because it means marijuana bought at legal stores that is consumed buyers can be regulated.
And that goes for reducing criminal issues that don’t accompany legally grown marijuana as well as health issues that tainted marijuana can create on top of long-term concerns.
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