Despite the current ban on the establishment of Pot Shops in Martinez, a recent city council meeting centered only on where, not if, a shop would be permitted.
All the city council members appeared to assume that the opening of 1 or 2 marijuana dispensaries would be a boon to our city. The speakers in favor of this plan talked about the need for readily available medical cannabis and the financial benefits which would flood into Martinez. The location being promoted is on Sunrise Drive in Martinez. Unfortunately, this location is directly next door to Power Endurance, a physical fitness gym which caters mostly to the under 18 age group. The owner, Maurice Drew Jones, is a well known athlete who wants to help our kids to become the best they can be, both mentally and physically. A large contingent of his students sat quietly and respectfully while the city council heard tales, mostly from people not living in our community, of how marijuana is the miracle drug for certain medical issues. One cannabis group located in Rossmoor believes having a dispensary this near would be wonderful for their residents. Each of the proponents cited a new state law which gave them the right to have these drug dispensaries near at hand.
However, the problems are many. The state law does not mandate that every community open a marijuana shop. The law only decriminalizes its use. The unintended consequence (or perhaps intended consequence) is that now everyone thinks they have a right to open a dispensary wherever they think they can make the most money. Unfortunately, because of federal restrictions, the cannabis business is a cash business. So the projections of immense tax benefits to our community may not come to fruition. San Francisco has recently discovered that the cannabis revenues are not nearly as high as expected, and the costs to the city of additional police presences, the rise in crime, and the demand for city services to insure proper sanitation substantially offset the original estimates for revenue. Equally, in other cities, the blight brought to the neighborhoods around these shops is immense. Juneau, Alaska has an active medical dispensary downtown which has a large number of individuals lolling of the sidewalk, disrupting surrounding businesses, and fouling the area with human waste. San Diego, within its prestigious and tourist dependent Gaslight District, reeks of urine and feces, has an enormous hepatitis epidemic, and is generally unsafe as soon as one strays from the one main street.
Is this what we want for our community? Downtown Martinez is not at all what is described by one of our candidates for mayor. She thinks Martinez is a backwater and needs the tax revenues from marijuana shops. Obviously, she has not visited our newly vibrant Main Street. Lights, restaurants, music fills the air while people can be seen strolling and visiting. When the rest of Main Street finishes its reconstruction, our city will be even more attractive. Do we really want to thwart this progress.
Yes, Sunrise Drive is some way from Main Street, but state law prohibits the establishment of any business of this type within 600 feet of any youth center. Yet, even when presented with the fact that Power Endurance has just under 70% youthful clientele, one of our city council members flatly refused to believe the statistics…because the ads for this business do not specifically state it is a youth facility. If this business has that many kids enrolled, it is a youth facility. And, if the city council can equivocate that restriction, how long before we see Main Street beset with another cannabis shop.
I suggest, with the number of elderly living in Rossmoor, that group petition Walnut Creek to open a pot shop there, so these residents can be even closer. Equally, if you can get pizza delivered, one should also be able to get cannabis delivered. That way, shoppers can get their pot fix without ever having to leave their home. Martinez, being the first community in Contra Costa County to open a pot facility may not be a first we want to embrace. Think about the experiences of other communities and ask if we really want our burgeoning Martinez to be “drug” down to those levels.