Marijuana is legal in California and it is here to stay. However, the leadership in San Bernardino thinks it could prevent its full legalization by blocking any type of efforts to regulate and distribute the plant.
But is it really that simple?
Well it depends on how a legislative body approaches the issue. Take the City of Colton as an example. Weeks before voters passed Proposition 64 (The Adult Use of Marijuana Act), city officials placed a moratorium on marijuana to give them some time to decide how they wanted to handle the matter.
After deliberating with staff, community leaders, and residents the Colton City Council is choosing to ban dispensaries and businesses and solely focus on commercial cultivation. As of now, the majority of the public in the city is OK with that.
In contrast, San Bernardino has not prepared adequately for the legalization of the substance and now faces litigation from all angles because of it. It faces legal battles from growers and businesses that are becoming frustrated with a long ban and from investors that believe the passage of their citizens initiative in 2016 was just.
And although state law allows for municipalities to issue a 45-day moratorium and extend it to up to 10 months, and despite their ability to restrict marijuana activities per Prop 64, San Bernardino is fumbling with this issue because it is ill prepared to deal with it.
I understand where many of the leadership is coming from. Some, like Councilman Henry Nickel, fear that the Justice Department may crack down on marijuana activities due to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ memorandum encouraging prosecutors to go after investors. Others, like Councilwoman Bessine Littlefield-Richard, worry the presence of marijuana establishments will scare away businesses and investors, as well as hinder the progress of families. In the cases of those dispensaries that partake in illegal activities, they should be prosecuted and ran out of town.
But frankly, the views of our leaders are antiquated viewpoints. It invokes both the “reefer madness” phenomenon of a toxic plant making people crazy and our federal government’s obsession with the so-called “war on drugs”, which has incarcerated millions of people of color for non-violent drug offenses.
San Bernardino could clean up their marijuana mess by taking into consideration the recommendations put forward by the citizens advisory committee–suggestions that were well researched and vetted. The City Council shouldn’t have to continue to go over methods of legalization because the committee has already done that.
City leaders should also continue to meet with marijuana growers and business owners to try to find a proper solution. Despite their differences, it seems many of the men and women that have attended city council meetings and public hearings want what’s best for their personal growth and for the city’s economic prosperity. They aren’t “job killers” or “deviants” as some claim. Some are employment creators and citizens that recognize marijuana should be handled responsibly.
San Bernardino has a chance to capitalize on an industry that has proven to reap millions in property and sales taxes in Washington and Colorado. Even though city officials find themselves in a predicament, they could yet wake up and smell the coffee (or in this case, weed) and find a solution that works for everyone.