Issues relating to marijuana usage, cultivation, and retail sales have come before the Visalia City Council a number of times during the eight years that I’ve served. Although medical marijuana was legalized in California a number of years ago, our city council chose not to allow medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits. Now, with the passage of Prop. 64, which the vast majority of Tulare County residents voted against, California has moved to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.
However, even under Prop. 64, local governments may restrict or completely prohibit any type of business licenses relating to marijuana. That issue is currently being debated in a number of local towns, particularly those with budget problems who see marijuana cultivation or retail sales as being their tax salvation. I believe that they are being very shortsighted if they allow such. There are those few who look to make a profit off this drug at the expense of public health and safety, who are very vocal in support of licensing such businesses. The licensing issue relating to recreational marijuana has again come before the Visalia City Council.
Is this type of business good for our community, business districts, and neighboring businesses? Let me summarize from an article I recently read entitled “Should We Welcome the Business of Drug Dealing?”
Per this article, crime is common near pot shops, including assaults, robberies, and shootings. On July 19, four individuals were shot at a pot shop in L.A. during a would-be robbery. Gangs and drug dealers don’t consider marijuana dispensaries as pharmacies, rather, they see them as rival drug dealers.
When pot shops open in a business district, the complaints of the business neighbors are numerous, including fights, drug use, and street drug dealing increasing in the area. This in turn affects the type of clientele in that area, and thus the neighboring businesses.
It is well known that homelessness has increased in the Denver and Seattle areas after legalization. Also, drug dealing dramatically increases law enforcement costs. The San Diego Association of Governments published a report finding that 52 percent of male arrestees tested positive for marijuana in 2015. Thirty-five percent reported that they commit crime to support a drug habit. The Denver district attorney warned in 2016 that every crime type in that city increased after legalization of marijuana. He said, “The Denver Police Department is busier enforcing marijuana laws and investigating crimes directly related to marijuana, including murders, robberies, and home invasions, than any other time in the history of the city.”
And it can get even worse. Pot industry profits are used to buy political influence. For instance, in San Diego several planning commissioners indicated relationships with the marijuana industry. They made dozens of land use votes on marijuana businesses while in these relationships. None appeared to have had a connection prior to becoming commissioners. They appear to have been approached by prop-marijuana influencers while in office. The former mayor pro tem of Coalinga, which has welcomed the industry, is now a marijuana consultant. And in those states that have legalized usage, there are no pharmaceutical protocols such as you would find at any legitimate drug store or pharmacy, as marijuana is sold as pseudo medicine.
Marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Common sense and history dictates that marijuana is still a harmful gateway drug.
Don’t drink the Kool-Aid associated with claims that Visalia needs the purported additional dollars that would come from taxing recreational marijuana sales. Aside from the difficulty of enforcing full payment of such taxes on this largely cash industry, particularly with the recent passage of Measure N, our city finances are sufficient. Were we to grasp the brass ring of marijuana tax money, there would be social costs involved. In states that have legalized marijuana, teen use has increased. Colorado now leads the nation in teen usage. Traffic fatalities associated with marijuana have doubled in states that have legalized. Homelessness and other social ills have become worse, where the drug is made easily accessible. Marijuana smoke has nearly all the same carcinogens as cigarette smoke, it is just as addictive, and it impairs judgment and perception. In Colorado about 40 percent of marijuana being sold is black market marijuana, despite its legalization. Visit calmca.org for statistics and other articles opposing recreational marijuana. We would be failing our youth if we allow this drug to become normalized locally.
For the foregoing reasons, I have been against and will continue to vote against allowing any type of business licenses relating to the cultivation and/or distribution of marijuana within city limits. Visalia and our neighboring communities need to continue to just say no to marijuana and other harmful drugs.
On Aug. 7, 2017, the Visalia City Council voted 5-0 to not allow commercial growing or retail sales of marijuana in city limits.
If you have questions or topics regarding the city that you would like to have addressed in future articles, please email Warren at email@example.com. For past articles, visit directfromwarren.blogspot.com.