It’s amusing that the Solano County Board of Supervisors banned pot dispensaries the same week of the 80th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition.
Eighty years ago, a nation of scofflaws, as Ken Burns put it in his Prohibition documentary, decided to end the charade that we were a dry country and repealed the ban on alcoholic beverages. In 2013, states are moving past the backdoor legalization of medical marijuana to recreational use.
Last month, the Gallup polling organization reported that for the first time a clear majority of Americans (58 percent) support legalizing marijuana. A recent Tulchin Research poll finds 65 percent of likely California voters support legalizing marijuana for adults in 2016. Two initiatives are already trying to qualify for the 2014 ballot. Our own Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is spearheading a legalization movement.
I’ve no reason to believe that residents of Solano County, as one of the more progressive counties in the state, feel any differently on the issue – even though six of the seven cities have banned medical marijuana dispensaries. Legalizing marijuana and having a dispensary in your neighborhood are two different questions.
The county conducted a series of public meetings on the subject. While the majority of residents may be in favor of legalization, those aren’t the people likely to show up at a meeting on the subject. With such sentimental sites as the Iwama Market, Gomer School area, Rockville Corner and Mankas Corner proposed for dispensaries, NIMBYism was bound to rule the day.
But Fairfield and the county are missing out on the tax revenue dispensaries could’ve provided. Harborside Health Center, Oakland’s largest dispensary, brought in $1.2 million in tax revenue for Oakland in 2012. Sacramento collected $2.5 million from dispensaries last year. Vallejo, the only city in Solano County to have medical pot dispensaries, takes in about $750,000 a year, according to published reports.
Some citizens and law enforcement have expressed fear of more crime and a drain on public safety resources. But a study of Sacramento dispensaries by UCLA found no increase in crime in those neighborhoods. Dispensaries usually invest in good security with cameras and security guards.
But the supervisors have rendered their verdict. Ironically, the people happiest about Solano County and the majority of its cities banning dispensaries are probably pot sellers. Now they don’t have the business competition. They can continue selling all over the place in secret.
While they wouldn’t have completely ended illicit sales, at least dispensaries would’ve helped drive that business to known locations on the outskirts of town. In a two-week span last year we saw shootings over marijuana deals in Fairfield. One shooting took place at an apartment complex and the other occurred in the parking lot of Chuck E. Cheese, where children go.
You don’t have to be a marijuana user to read the writing on the wall. Like Prohibition, we’re a nation of marijuana scofflaws and it’s only a matter of time before the ban goes up in smoke.
Kelvin Wade is the author of “Morsels” Vols. I and II and lives in Fairfield. Email him at email@example.com.