State should legalize, tax pot just like any other business
March 4, 2014
Like it or not, by 2016 marijuana will most likely be legal for recreational use in California.
Whether legalization will help or hurt the economy is no longer subject to speculation — just look at Colorado to see our future. Tax revenues are exceeding early estimates, businesses are booming and tourism is up.
The state's program is working to everyone's benefit because it took steps to regulate its medical marijuana industry before taking on recreational pot.
The only reason California has not been able to regulate our medical marijuana industry is solely the fault of law enforcement and elected officials who boast that they have derailed every attempt to create a legal framework under which these businesses could operate.
To quote from a Feb. 21 letter being circulated by Chris McKenzie, executive director of the League of California Cities, "Last year, the League along with law enforcement organizations defeated four different medical marijuana bills in the legislature. While each measure was defeated, those victories were hard-won and achieved with increasingly slender margins. One bill, AB 604, failed by only two votes on the Senate Floor."
McKenzie went on to say, "Our two organizations independently came to realize that although we remain strongly opposed to marijuana use, it is increasingly likely that in the near future some statewide regulatory structure for medical marijuana could be enacted. We also realized that without our proactive intervention it could take a form that was severely damaging to our interests."
Their interests to date have been to support our prison-for-profit industrial complex by arresting and jailing record numbers of people for using marijuana to relieve symptoms that Western medicine could not alleviate. Eighty percent of people sent to prison for marijuana convictions are for nonviolent offenses.
This is why it is up to citizens to pursue the initiative process. It is the only avenue of redress we have when elected officials pass laws that do not reflect the values of their constituents.
The Americans for Safe Access initiative would create a framework that allows for collective cultivation on larger agriculture parcels but specifically bans outdoor cultivation in residential zones. If this measure is approved by our citizens, it could not be overturned by any law that comes later and would keep commercial growers out of Nevada County.
Some people ask why we oppose the county's cultivation ordinance. The answer is simple. When the majority of people cannot comply with the provisions of an ordinance, it is a bad law.
Adding school bus stops to the list of "sensitive use" areas has effectively rendered most properties ineligible to cultivate cannabis. During the BOS hearings, County Counsel Alison Barat-Green stipulated that bus stops would be removed in exchange for increasing the setbacks from 600 feet to 1,000 feet for schools and churches. They increased the distance but failed to remove the bus stops from the ordinance.
I have received complaints from several members who followed every provision in the county's ordinance but were cited for being too close to a school bus stop. We discovered that the "too close" bus stop was inactive and hadn't been used for years.
Numerous requests to remove the inactive stops from the list have been rejected.
Since every cannabis garden must be shielded from public view behind a locked fence, I fail to see what harm can come from a garden being in the vicinity of a bus stop. It is the equivalent of saying that a child has to be 1,000 feet from a liquor store.
It is impossible to know the exact dollar amount of taxpayer dollars that have been spent writing, enforcing and defending the county's cultivation ordinance, but it is estimated to be over $2.5 million, and the Nevada County Sheriff's Office has announced plans to add two more full-time code compliance officers to their ranks this season.
What could we have gotten for that money instead?
We could have hired 41 high school teachers.
We could have fed 1,400 people for a year.
We could repair our decaying infrastructure.
We could supply bus service to North San Juan.
We could extend high speed Internet to rural areas.
We could keep the library open full time and buy thousands of new books.
We could free up law enforcement to pursue more pressing problems.
In short, there are many better options for using taxpayers' money — including not spending it at all.
There is another alternative: legalize, tax and regulate marijuana just like every other business.
Patricia Smith is Nevada County Chair of Americans for Safe Access.
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