We’re killing our cash cow

The Nevada County Board of Supervisors is preparing an ordinance to restrict or ban marijuana cultivation in agricultural and residential neighborhoods. This ordinance could have unintended consequences on our quality of life and devastate the local economy.  I suggest that we would be better served by taxing, limiting, and tightly regulating cannabis cultivation in Nevada County.  Cannabis is our state’s No. 1 cash crop, outpacing the second highest ag producer, dairy, two to one. State tax collectors estimate that $14 billion in marijuana sales remain largely untaxed. Even if you support the board’s action, I urge you to reconsider your position.

Nevada County is second only to the Emerald Triangle in statewide cannabis production. Accurate figures on the amount of money marijuana brings to our region are scarce, but it’s estimated our share of the pie exceeds $1 billion annually.  The State Board of Equalization has ruled that all transactions for medical marijuana, even if done on a nonprofit basis, are subject to sales tax. Medical marijuana sales taxes currently add over $100 million to our state’s general fund — and this is only the tip of the iceberg.  The biggest chunk of sales tax revenue goes to highways, roads, and bridges (benefits everybody), public education (benefits your kids), and aid to local governments (benefits us).

If we changed our policy to treat cannabis like the wine industry, the tax revenues to our state could grow to $1.3 billion and Nevada County could receive several million dollars annually. Several cities including Sacramento, San Jose, Stockton, Oakland, Rancho Cordova, Richmond, Morro Bay, Albany, Berkeley, La Puente, and Long Beach have imposed an additional local sales tax, varying from 2.5 to 10 percent, on all marijuana transactions. San Jose has collected more than $300,000 a month since imposing a 7 percent sales tax on cannabis.

Milton Friedman and 499 other financial experts wrote an open letter to the President, Congress, and all 50 Governors urging them to end marijuana prohibition for the tax revenue benefits and law enforcement savings it would provide.  It’s astonishing that outdated “Reefer Madness” dogma continues to affect our drug policies from the White House to Main Street. Many branches of our government have authorized studies on marijuana with the intent of finding something detrimental about the herb. Unfortunately for them, the results rarely do. But, rather than embrace the findings, favorable reports get buried, ignored, or refuted without facts to back up claims. Over 94 million Americans have tried marijuana at least once in their lives and they know marijuana prohibition is wrong.

Perhaps that’s why Harris Poll results show that 76 percent of all Americans favor legalized medical marijuana, including 58 percent of Republicans, and a recent Gallup poll shows that for the first time, 50 percent favor legalizing marijuana for consenting adults versus 46 percent who still oppose the idea. Despite decades of effort, billions of wasted dollars, and millions of lives ruined by prohibition, marijuana is just as popular and readily available as it ever was. Prohibition simply has not worked and there is no reason to believe that it will in the future.  Overlooking that fact won’t change the reality. Fifteen years after Prop. 215, parent’s fears that dispensaries would make marijuana more available to their teenagers remain unfounded. The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse found that teenagers are twice as likely to abuse prescription pills than marijuana because pills are cheaper and even easier to get.

The report concluded that marijuana use by teens has declined every year (except one) since medical marijuana was legalized in California. It seems insane to dismiss tax revenue from marijuana cultivation when Nevada County is being forced to make some hard choices to balance the budget. Reductions are being made to the ranks of teachers, firefighters, and police in growing numbers. These are actions that truly affect our quality of life. People who demonize marijuana don’t stop to realize how vital the cannabis market is to Nevada County. The money from cultivation is pumped back into our local economy virtually propping up every business in town.

If you want to see a deserted Main Street, ban our No. 1 income producer. Doing so will produce a domino effect that will spread like an epidemic. The business that closes or the job that is lost could be yours.

via : Patricia Smith, of GrassRootsSolutions

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