By Frank Gormlie / OB Rag
The war on marijuana continues even at mid-point of 2016 – the year that California voters will end the marijuana prohibition in the state. While California voters get set to vote to legalize the recreational use of pot, there are good signs and bad signs around the state as the Pot Wars continue.
Right now, a majority of Californians favor legalization.
The folks who have been organizing the more successful of the legalize recreational marijuana initiatives have gathered more than 600,000 signatures, far exceeding the 350,000 needed. It’s a certainty that the Adult Use of Marijuana Act will be on California’s November ballot. This is the initiative that has support from California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and billionaire Facebook co-founder Sean Parker. And many marijuana policy reform groups also support it.
So, what does it do? If passed, the Act establishes a regulatory system, under which adults 21 and older are able to possess, transport, purchase, consume and share up to 1 ounce of marijuana cannabis flower and up to 8 grams of marijuana concentrates. Adults would be able to grow up to 6 plants at home – out of public view and away from kids. Home cultivation could still be banned by local governments, however.
Stakes of Election
In a clear sign of the scale of what’s going on within California around pot, there’s an estimated 1,250 medical marijuana dispensaries in the state, and it’s estimated their sales in 2015 hit $2.7 billion. So, if voters approve recreational use in November, California’s total market for marijuana could reach $6.6 billion in 2018.
Some in the state hope that with the legalization of herb, California will become the Center of Cannabis Culture. The state already produces and sells more pot than any other state, including Colorado, Washington and Oregon. Some think there will be a tenfold increase in the pot industry.
Feds Drop Case Against Largest Cannabis Dispensary
In more good news, federal prosecutors are dropping a lengthy legal battle to try to shut down the country’s largest medical marijuana dispensary Harborside Health Center in Oakland, California, which sells cannabis to more than 100,000 patients. After expensive and very public litigation since 2012, Oakland city officials and the dispensary’s lawyer announced that federal prosecutors had dropped the case. In its report, the LA Times summarized:
The end of the highly publicized legal battle follows growing public acceptance of medical cannabis and two years of federal budget amendments barring the Department of Justice from spending money on efforts that would interfere with state medical marijuana laws.
Colorado Governor Changes Tune Over State’s Herb Industry
The LA Times (which, by the way, has been publishing some great articles of late on the changing attitudes about marijuana) has chronicled how Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper – who was 4 years ago, one of the main critics of his state’s vote to legalize recreational use – now admits that the new industry “looks like it might work.” In a TV report, Hickenlooper said legal weed was “not as vexing as we thought it was going to be.” And on “60 Minutes,” he predicted that Colorado might “actually create a system that could work” in successfully regulating marijuana.
So why has the governor changed his tune?
“Colorado is booming. The state has a 4.2% unemployment rate, one of the best in the country. High-tech companies are moving in. Small towns across the state, some once teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, have been saved by tax revenues from pot dispensaries. And the $1-billion-a-year cannabis business will pump $100 million in taxes into state coffers this year. …
Marijuana consumption has not changed much from pre-legalization levels and there has been no significant increase in public health and safety problems… As for the $100 million in tax revenue, …some 70% of the money is earmarked for school construction, public health initiatives and other projects. The rest goes back into regulating the industry.”
Meanwhile, back in Dinosaur San Diego
While the rest of the state seems to be adjusting to the reality of the coming of the end of prohibition, our local leaders backpedal from history.
Just recently, our County Board of Supervisors voted to extend a moratorium against new medical marijuana activity in San Diego County.
But worse, is the City Attorney of San Diego’s latest move against un-certified medical marijuana clinics. According to the Times of San Diego on May 13th:
San Diego Police and the City Attorney’s Office launched a crackdown this week on illegal marijuana dispensaries that operate without city permits in competition with the city’s 14 legal providers.
Two of these dispensaries had their operators slapped with criminal charges of illegally operating a marijuana dispensary in violation of zoning regulations, with penalties of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for each count.
The City Attorney’s Office has closed nearly 300 illegal dispensaries, including 242 that were shut down through court orders. Additionally, it has secured more than $2 million in civil penalties against the most flagrant violators.
Listen to City Attorney Jan Goldsmith talk about those who continue to operate un-licensed dispensaries:
“These last remaining illegal pot shops are being run by criminals and we’re not messing around with them. These outlaw dispensary operators and their landlords need to know their time is up. There will continue to be raids and arrests, and we will seek convictions and jail time for operators and landlords.”
Goldsmith and the San Diego establishment are so proud that they have permitted 14 medical marijuana dispensaries – this after California voters passed the legislation in 1996 – 20 freaking years ago. And this is the great County of San Diego where our DA Bonnie Dumanis took the issue of medical cannabis clinics all the way to the California Supreme Court – unsuccessfully of course – using our tax money.
San Diego has a shameful history in opposing the will of the people, the voters. Law enforcement dinosaurs like Dumanis and Goldsmith need to go their own way, and get out of public office.
So, as the people are on the verge of ending marijuana prohibition in this state, our local law enforcement and County supervisors are weighing down the progress of history, trying to keep their reins on a changing culture that is no longer in their control.