Would you feel comfortable if there was a business next door that kept large sums of cash on hand — often into the tens of thousands of dollars?
Would it make a difference to your answer if it was the type of business that stocked merchandise that not only fetches top dollar on the black market but is also a key source of income for gangs, drug cartels, and other people you certainly don’t want to mess with or be in your community let alone your neighborhood?
You may want to answer those two questions and a few more before you consider how you will vote on an initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in California.
I know of people who legally use marijuana for medicinal purposes. It worked for them. I also know of people who use recreational marijuana. It works for them. Just like alcohol. Just like cigarette smoking. It calms them. It gets them high. They get a buzz.
I get it. Marijuana is no worse than alcohol, right?
Guess again. Colorado isn’t all peaches and cream.
Gangs of robbers have been terrorizing pot shops. Bet pro-legalize marijuana forces don’t mention that. Nor do they tell you that the promised windfall of taxes isn’t coming anywhere close to what they claimed before Coloradans blessed legalizing pot.
Let’s look at why pot shops are big targets. They have a lot of cash — not to mention easy to “fence” property — on hand. Banks won’t touch their money. It’s drug money. Banks take it and Uncle Sam does a major number on them. Wait, that’s right. It’s the federal government’s fault. But here’s the bottom line — when it comes to banks, the federal government calls the shots, not the State of Colorado and certainly not the State of California.
So contrary to what supporters tell you, legalizing pots creates big targets for serious criminals.
But, there’s going to be all the extra tax money rolling in.
True, but read the fine print. It’s why the California Medical Association supports the plan to legalize recreational pot in California. Part of the tax will go for research on the medical impacts of pot use. No big deal, right? But guess what? The rest of the money goes to pot-related concerns including enforcement.
For society as a whole, the proposed California tax on pot is a wash. It will not raise a single penny for general government, schools, or law enforcement not tied to pot.
It gets worse. Colorado has a lot of legitimate pot shops. They have noticed a rise in the black market for pot sales. How can that be? Legalizing pot is supposed to end all of that, remember?
Before I answer that, how much do you pay in sales tax when you buy an item? In Manteca, it’s 8.5 cents on every dollar. So if you spend an average of $234 for an ounce of high grade marijuana in California according to the website priceofweed.com that translates into $20.65.
So people won’t buy it off the street if they can buy it legally and pay almost 10 percent more for it? Perhaps most people won’t. But what if they save more than 10 percent? The guy on the black market doesn’t have any overhead. And, if they really operate outside the law, they don’t even grow their own. They steal it.
So, let’s see, decriminalizing marijuana reduces crime and increases tax revenues.
It will no longer by a citable misdemeanor to use marijuana for recreational purposes or even to sell it if you have a business license and are regulated. But as Colorado has shown, it hasn’t reduced the black market where the real crime is. If anything it has increased the crimes that matter — hardcore felonies.
What about taxes, even if they just go for making the world of marijuana better and safer? In Colorado, they are running four to five times lower than the projected revenue.
So what, there are no other impacts, right? Then explain why the Department of Public Health for the State of Colorado reports 1,774 hospital charges for marijuana-related reasons during 2012. That is more than double just 10 years ago.
And why is the federal Health and Human Services department reporting that the number of youth 12 years and older in Colorado that use pot has surpassed the national average since pot was legalized. Wasn’t legal pot supposed to keep it out of the hands of teens or is it maybe the fact it is legal makes it easier for black markets to sell to minors?
I almost forgot. There is a major upswing in criminal activity for those using the Postal Service to illegally mail marijuana out of Colorado. There were 15 such package intercepted in 2010. In the first five months of 2013, that number had skyrocketed to 209.
Go ahead. Vote for legal recreational pot. Just don’t be surprised it all of the promises made don’t come true.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.