California voters have spoken and with the passage of Proposition 64, adult use of marijuana is now legal in our state. Regardless of one’s personal feelings about marijuana, this new reality presents both challenges and opportunities for our community.
The Sacramento City Council has taken the position that strict regulations to control every element of the industry is the best and most responsible way to protect public health, deal with illegal activity, mitigate potential negative impacts, employ thousands of Sacramentans and increase city tax revenues.
Rather than ignoring the current reality, the council wisely voted last month to build on our model dispensary ordinance and establish a process for permitting and taxing commercial cultivation of marijuana in the city. The plan we approved takes into account the impacts of adult use marijuana in our community, and provides regulations and tax policy that will allow our city to mitigate any potential negative consequences.
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Our police estimate that there are currently more than 400 illegal grows in residential neighborhoods – a major problem that the city currently lacks resources to deal with. These grows are the source of many complaints and neighborhood issues. Experiences in other states that have legalized marijuana tell us that the illegal activity will not go away without increased enforcement. But with appropriate enforcement and good policies in place, regulated legal cultivation sites have proven to not be problematic.
Marijuana businesses will have to work with their neighborhoods to obtain a conditional use permit and a business operators license in addition to paying a hefty annual fee and a 4 percent business operations tax. The licensing fee paid by commercial cultivators will be used to pay for code and police enforcement, and provide millions of dollars that can be invested into the community for positive uses. Marijuana businesses will also have to implement a “neighborhood responsibility plan” to mitigate any negative neighborhood impacts.
Done thoughtfully, Sacramento can turn a challenging issue into an opportunity. The legalization of adult use of cannabis has the potential to be an economic boon and job creation generator for our city. A study by the University of the Pacific released last month estimates with passage of Proposition 64, nearly 20,000 jobs will be created, with a total economic output of $4.2 billion in our six-county region.
By creating a framework to regulate marijuana in a responsible manner, Sacramento is ahead of the curve compared to other jurisdictions. Other communities are now looking at our model ordinances for marijuana dispensaries and cultivation that set high standards for this new and emerging industry. The robust regulatory framework approved by the council will protect public health, protect our neighborhoods and expand support for our young people.
As the new law is implemented across California, we will need to closely monitor the growth of cultivation sites in our community. We also must adopt regulations for manufacturing, transportation and delivery, as well as consider standards for pesticides, packaging and labeling, advertising and much more.
Medical and adult-use marijuana is here to stay. The city of Sacramento is wise to regulate this newly legal industry and develop standards that protect public health and provide the resources for our community that will be necessary to navigate the challenges ahead.
Jay Schenirer is the Sacramento City Council member for District 5. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.