Pubdate: Thu, 12 Nov 2015
Source: Chico News & Review, The (CA)
Copyright: 2015 Chico Community Publishing, Inc.


Chico's City Council Needs to Prepare for Recreational Marijuana

Numerous initiatives to legalize recreational marijuana in California 
are now ready for their proponents to begin gathering signatures, 
signaling the start of a race to make it on the 2016 general election 
ballot. If what's happened in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington 
is any indication of where the Golden State is headed, we expect to 
see a proliferation of pot shops opening up around the state come January 2017.

The writing is on the wall, as evidenced by the trio of 
medical-marijuana-related bills recently signed by Gov. Brown. They 
call for, among other things, a framework for regulating a cash crop 
that has been caught up in the morass created back in the '90s with 
the passage of Proposition 215, the state's so-called Compassionate 
Use Act of 1996 (see Associate Editor Meredith J. Cooper's report on 
page 8). Prop. 215 was designed to give those with medical issues a 
legal defense for using the schedule 1 drug, but the nebulous law has 
been most successful at enriching the black market.

Its exploitation by for-profit growers has led to a booming 
underground industry and a multitude of unintended consequences, 
including environmental degradation and violent crime.

In 2012, legalization was defeated narrowly in the general election. 
But given myriad factors-financial resources wasted on prosecution in 
a failed war on drugs, overcrowded prisons and jails, increasing 
acceptance of the medicinal benefits of cannabis, other states 
reaping revenues from the drug's sale-we're fairly certain voters 
will end marijuana prohibition next November.

The question for leaders of local municipalities and counties is 
whether they'll be prepared for legalization. At its next meeting, 
the Chico City Council will consider a citizen's request to agendize 
discussion of local marijuana dispensaries. Currently, there are 
numerous medical-cannabis delivery services, but no brick-and-mortar shops.

Back in 2011, the council voted to adopt a dispensary ordinance, but 
then repealed it a month later under the threat of prosecution by the 
federal government. Much has changed since that time, however, 
including the establishment of a federal hands-off policy regarding 
states codifying their own laws regulating the herb. The recent 
passage of state legislation allowing for the sale-and taxation-of 
medical marijuana makes it an even bigger no-brainer.

This newspaper has long advocated for the legalization of marijuana 
for adults. That's because prohibition has served only to prop up the 
black market. So long as it's illegal, the profit motive will stay 
intact. Moreover, people who want to use cannabis will find a way to 
get it. We think it would be much better-safer and more 
cost-effective-for the public to be able to purchase marijuana as 
they would alcohol or tobacco.

Local discussions on establishing an ordinance related to 
dispensaries are long overdue. There are benefits to the city in the 
way of generating permitting fees and sales tax, and the longer the 
council waits to take up this issue, the greater chance it will have 
to play catch-up and run into problems.

Dispensaries make sense, not only in terms of profit to the city but 
also in safe access to a medicine that now, for those who don't grow, 
is purchased mostly on the black market or out of town. Plus, those 
who buy it know what they're getting at a dispensary, many of which 
label their goods according to potency and can verify the lack of 
contaminants like mold or pesticides.

Considering the state's three new medical-cannabis laws and the 
potential for outright legalization, this is an issue city leaders 
should not ignore. We urge them to start the discussion sooner than later.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom