Opinion

After Nearly Two Years of Legal Pot, What’s Working?

Written by Scott Chipman, Southern California Chair of Citizens Against Legalization of Marijuana CALM.org

After Nearly 2 Years of “Legal” Pot In Californian Is Anything Working?

Proposition 64 (November 2016) promised voters in California several key things in exchange for a vote to “legalize.” Have any of those promises been kept?

It Was About Social Justice: “Legalization” to most people means no or fewer reasons for arrests. According to proponents many (mostly blacks and Hispanics) were being arrested for having a joint. Many people believed they were correcting a “social justice” inequity by legalizing marijuana. However, a year prior to the passage of a check of every prison and jail in the state found no one incarcerated for simple possession. 

Stats don’t appear to be available in California but in Colorado, more people are being arrested for marijuana-related crimes now than prior to legalization. Racial inequity in who is being arrested has actually grown. Even in California there continues to be arrests for trafficking and operating without a license. Nothing has really changed. There are more people illegally growing, manufacturing and distributing than ever. Some actually get arrested. And pot shops tend to be concentrating in areas of color and poverty much like liquor stores. 

The Black Market Would Be Reduced or Eliminated: The black market has actually grown dramatically since legalization. There is more product demand as the drug has become more normalized in society. There is more advertising and more users influencing others to use. 

Many in the “permitted” pot industry actually run parallel black market pot drug dealing business. This allows them to cater to the entire retail “market”. And, if they have questionable (contaminated with pesticides or poisons) marijuana product they can channel it where it is less likely to be scrutinized.

The Marijuana Will Be Tracked From Seed to Sale: Again a promise not kept. Less than 10% of the 1,000 registered pot product manufacturers are documenting their activities. By May 2019, over the entire state, only nine retailers were entering data. What little tracking is done is typically via pen and paper and the pot dealers are on their honor to record honestly. 

At Least We Will Be Collecting a Lot in Taxes: Even those who don’t like marijuana use or normalization were at least promised massive tax revenues.  Those revenues were going to do a lot of good including educating teens about the harms of marijuana. Tax revenues are much lower than promised and the majority of those collected go to the state pot bureaucracy. The $288 million in taxes collected last year represent less than two-tenths of one percent of the annual $209 billion budget.  No one is measuring or reporting the costs of pot addiction, pot traffic crashes, pot-related hospitalizations, impacts to babies and kids, dropouts and crime and enforcement. Well, maybe there is no cost of enforcement because the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) reports there has been no enforcement of fraudulent or inadequate recording of pot transactions.

Newsom and others claim the black market is undercutting the permitted market so we should lower the taxes so there is less price disparity. The black market will always be able to undercut the permitted, inspected, taxed, and regulated market. Some argue we need to lower the taxes to zero. So much for the tax revenue.  No one that I know has ever seen a state-sponsored message to youth about the dangers of marijuana. 

The Marijuana Will Be Safe and With No Contaminates: From January 1, 2018 till today marijuana continues to test positive for pesticides, poisons, molds, e-coli, heavy metals and more. The state has even given permission to retailers to get rid of old contaminated product prior to requiring testing or compliance. What other industry would be allowed to continue to sell poisoned products? 

Cities, Towns and Counties Will Be Able To Opt Out: Prop 64 promised that if your local government didn’t want to be a haven for pot it could opt out using local land use controls. Now the state, in a never ending attempt to make legalization “work” for the industry, is moving a bill, AB 1356, to take away the control of local governments and force any jurisdiction not currently allowing commercial pot to institutionalize it if more than 50% of voters in the area approved Prop 64. Many who voted thought they were keeping people out of jail and to have local control. They didn’t necessarily vote to institutionalize pot drug dealing in their communities. 

The Real Issue: The marijuana of today is dangerous; 10-40 times stronger than in the ‘60s or ‘70s. Heavy pot use is linked to psychosis, violence, birth defects, drop outs, car crashes, child endangerment, crime, a-motivational syndrome, poor work place performance, injuries, heart attacks and more. Even if regulatory promises were kept marijuana would be a public health and safety crisis. The state’s negligence is only making all the problems much worse.