San Diego County’s Continuing War on Marijuana

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In Spring Valley – an unincorporated community of San Diego County – sheriff deputies raided an unlicensed marijuana dispensary on Troy Street. This effort demonstrates the war against pot continues in this area of California.

Twenty-two years after the voters of California legalized medical cannabis and a year and a half after voters over the state voted to legalize recreational marijuana, the County of San Diego pushes on against the will of the people, cracking down on pot shops.

The current crop of County supervisors voted in March 2017 to prohibit any marijuana operations in the unincorporated areas of the County and phase out existing ones.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune:

County officials are trying a new tactic in their fight to shut down unpermitted marijuana dispensaries in Spring Valley — giving property owners 10 days to cease the illegal business operations or face losing access to their buildings. And they say the approach seems to be working.

Sheriff’s investigators have targeted a dozen illegal dispensaries in this East County community for more than a year, serving warrants resulting in the seizure of about 7,000 pounds of cannabis products, five firearms and $85,000 in cash….

Owners are being given notices warning them they have 10 days to remove the illegal business or risk having the building “boarded up and secured.” “In order to correct this violation you are required to abandon the marijuana dispensary use and establish a new legal use and occupancy,” the notices say.

To secure a building, county workers may board up doors and windows or even erect a fence around the structure, said county spokeswoman Jessica Northrup. So far, four illegal dispensaries have complied with the order to remove their illegal businesses after being given the 10-day notice, said sheriff’s Sgt. Matt Cook.

With these tactics and policies, San Diego County remains one of the most reactionary, anti-pot jurisdictions in California. It was our District Attorney – then Bonnie Dumanis – who contested the 1996 medical marijuana law all the way to the California Supreme Court. She lost, of course, but used our tax money to play out her pet project.

Now, with the passage of Prop 64, some counties, like San Francisco, have set up fast-track technology to allow people convicted of marijuana offenses in the past to have their convictions dismissed or reduced to misdemeanors. From Huffington Post:

San Francisco’s top prosecutor is working with a tech nonprofit to develop an app that would automate the process for individuals with past marijuana convictions to get those offenses cleared from their record, the San Francisco district attorney’s office announced Tuesday.

Now, of course, San Diego County has done no such thing. People with old pot convictions have to file for dismissals the old way here.

And we also find that pot sales have fallen short of their initial projections. Tax revenue from licensed pot sales will be less, as total sales in 2018 will reach only $1.9 billion – down from the projection of $3.8 billion. Still – almost 2 “Bs” – as in billions. So, why the lesser number? It’s the freaking cities and counties of the state themselves. An industry analyst stated:

Most cities in California have refused to allow pot businesses, and there are tough rules for those who want state licenses to grow, distribute and sell marijuana. Both are to blame for the lower-than-projected sales, …

Only about 30% of California’s 540 cities and counties have authorized some form of commercial cannabis activity, according to Amy Jenkins, a spokeswoman for the California Cannabis Industry Assn. That, she said, is “forcing consumers to turn to the illicit market.”

There is pending legislation apparently that will if passed lower the state excise tax on marijuana sales from 15% to 11%. This would, it is hoped, make it more financially appealing to state residents who are still turning to the black market to buy cannabis.

All of this was totally predictable.

The cities who have made pot dispensaries “legal” have made the endeavors so expensive that few can take up the challenge. Plus the number of licensed dispensaries and storefronts authorized by our government are so low that many pot smokers shop at the unlicensed storefronts.

And we should mention, while San Diego County officials refuse to abide by the will of the people, unlicensed storefronts make many contributions to the neighborhoods in which they operate. Many people are employed; new monies are pumped into poor and low-income communities; neighborhood businesses from gas stations to markets benefit.

Maybe most importantly, these storefronts without licenses are supporting the will of the people.

Remember, some of these County Supervisors seats are up for election this Primary. Make your will known … again.

By: Frank Gormlie, San Diego Free Press

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