By Scott Chipman
At the Sept. 11 San Diego City Council meeting, Big Marijuana was there in force. They argued for even more commercialization of the marijuana trade, which will boost their marijuana careers and business profits. The city council already created a pot industry in San Diego several years ago by allowing two pot shops (these aren’t dispensaries) per council district. Now, using their marijuana profits, they are dramatically influencing public policy.
However, while pot shop business people have scrambled to find locations, get their permits and beat out competing medicinal marijuana dispensaries, there have consistently been about 50 operating without permits. The city has spent thousands of man hours over months – and sometimes years – trying to close them. And when they are finally closed, they often reopened just a few weeks or days later and sometimes in the same location or across town, starting the investigation and closure process all over again. Or, occasionally, a business would choose to close but take the customer contacts and start an illegal, but profitable, delivery service.
The marijuana industry showed up at Monday’s council meeting to protect itself and influence policy in its favor. The public speakers typically fell into one of two categories: 1) Pot industry business people, consultants, lobbyists and employees in favor of expanding the pot industry and increasing jobs and profits related to the marijuana trade; 2) Community members, including moms, dads, grandparents, youth advisors, teens and recovering addicts, advocating for public health and safety and opposition of growing more pot and manufacturing pot products in San Diego.
Prior to public comment, San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman provided a detailed and impassioned plea against expanding the commercial marijuana industry. She cited meetings between law enforcement officials in Colorado and a SDPD team of detectives at which evidence was presented that marijuana legalization leads to more crime, homelessness and law enforcement costs. Chief Zimmerman also pointed to hundreds of calls for service that have occurred at “permitted” pot shops in San Diego including burglaries, strong arm robberies, assaults and shootings, among other crimes.
Amazingly, council Democrats were quick to ignore the concerns expressed by Chief Zimmerman, and even by their own constituents from “underserved” communities. They opted instead to support a full supply chain proposal, including growing, manufacturing, transporting and selling pot and pot products locally. The council majority aligned more with the industry and its lobbyists than with public safety policy and the needs of poorer communities.
In the past, these city council members have feigned concern for social justice and “patient’s” rights, but during this meeting it was just about marijuana industry jobs, supply chain and tax revenues. Drug selling has always been a job. But until recently it was considered by most elected officials a disgusting job that was recognized for the harm it does.
This entire process of moving from Prop 215 in 1996 – when voters approved an affirmative defense for the possession of marijuana by “seriously ill” patients and their caregivers – to full “just to get high” legalization – has been fraught with missteps endangering public health and safety, and driven by pot profiteers with dollar signs in their eyes.
When Prop 215 was being debated, pro-marijuana advocates were adamant that it would not lead to legalization. When the City Council approved medi-pot outlets (these are not “dispensaries”) citizens were told by council members they opposed “recreational” use but just wanted to provide safe access to the ill. The council had no medical qualifications to make a determination that medi-pot outlets were in the best interest of public health or safety, but had much evidence they were not.
Virtually every problem we are dealing with, such as homelessness, dropout rates, crime, addiction, car crashes, child neglect, etc., is exacerbated by encouraging more drug use, including marijuana use. Over 50% of male arrestees in San Diego and other California cities test positive for marijuana – and they aren’t even being arrested for pot possession.
This industry has proven to be lawless and unwilling to follow regulations – even simple signage regulations. Young men twirling signs that say “Free Weed, Ask Me” is one example. Regulations related to potency, safety, and products will require city oversight. Yet, there is no evidence that this oversight will occur. A sampling of pot products at a recent convention of “medical” marijuana producers indicated over 80% had pesticides, contaminants and molds.
But now the industry is entrenched and will try to command commercialized grow sites, sales and manufacturing in every city. California currently produces six to 12 times more marijuana than the state consumes. We are the drug cartel for the United States. Any additional grow sites in California would just generate more surplus marijuana. This excess will be distributed through the black market in the state and provide more pot to the drug traffickers around the country making more pot available to our nation’s kids and young adults.
One of the arguments for regulation is to eliminate the black market. However, over 40 percent of pot sales in Colorado are still black market sales. Ironically, the “medical” market was used to sell legalization to the voters originally but that is the only marijuana market that is going away. This has been the slipperiest of slippery slopes.
With THC levels of 15 to 30 percent, much of the botanical marijuana being produced is at least 10 to 20 times stronger than it was in the ‘60s. Today’s marijuana dramatically increases the likelihood of psychotic breaks, addiction, heart impacts, amotivational syndrome and more. The Netherlands made all marijuana with 15 percent or higher THC illegal after a study determined it to be a “hard drug”.
And, why does the marijuana industry “manufacture” marijuana products? To make them more accessible as candies, cookies, sodas, dabs, shatters, waxes, hash oil, etc. and increase potency for a more intense high. About 50 percent of the marijuana consumed is now in the form of manufactured edibles, often 40 to 90 percent THC with dabs and some products being nearly 100 percent. The citizens of San Diego have been promised restrictions on potency and edibles that have never materialized, but now the City Council is okay with producing more high-potency THC products?
Ironically and tragically, at the very time the City Council meeting was taking place, a toddler was being hospitalized after ingesting a marijuana edible at home. If we continue to institutionalize and promote the marijuana trade, occurrences such as this will become even more commonplace. And city councils will be culpable. All elected officials would do well to follow the example set this week by the mayor and city council of Poway and first protect public health and safety.
As Poway Mayor Steve Vaus said, “There is no amount of money that would make me vote to support the commercial sales of marijuana in Poway. Period.”
Scott Chipman is a 42 year business owner. He volunteers as the Southern California chair of Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana CALMca.org.