Supervisor Dianne Jacob
I like to be as thematic as possible when it comes to this space. I knew our “4:20 issue” was approaching when, a little over a month ago, the San Diego Board of Supervisors (BoS) narrowly passed a county-wide ban on all marijuana businesses in unincorporated areas. This includes dispensaries, farms and industrial grow facilities.
What’s an unicorporated area? Well, these areas actually make up a majority of San Diego County. Areas include places as varied as Julian and Jacumba, as well as more familiar areas like Spring Valley and Sweetwater. Supervisor Dianne Jacob led the charge on the ban, citing problems in other states where marijuana has been legalized.
“We only need to look at Colorado to realize that the legalization of marijuana has been a disaster and has not produced the net revenue that was expected,” she said.
This is absolute nonsense. According to the state of Colorado’s Department of Revenue, the state had $1.1 billion in marijuana sales in 2016, and the state pulled in $200 million in tax revenue from those sales. And guess where a lot of that money goes: Mostly to schools, including programs that teach effects of marijuana use. And according to recent articles in Reuters, The Washington Post and The Denver Post, marijuana use in Colorado teens has not risen since legalization and use among teens in Colorado was actually found to be lower than the national average.
Make no mistake, legalization has not been a disaster in any of the states that have chosen to legalize it. But it’s not so much the ban on shops and dispensaries that I’m concerned with, but rather the short-sightedness of the Supervisors when it comes to the potential jobs and economic growth that could come with putting grow facilities in these areas. These areas and neighborhoods are ripe with warehouse spaces that could support such businesses, and while there’s always the risk of robberies, the pros far outweigh the cons.
Let’s take a recent front-page article in the New York Times business section as an example. The headline says it all: “A Real Estate Boom, Powered by Pot.” The piece lays out just how beneficial growing facilities have been to once-blighted neighborhoods and industrial areas in places like Massachusetts and Maine.
“Commercial real estate developers say they have never seen a change so swift in so many places at once,” says the article.
Have readers been to places such as Spring Valley, Otay and Tecate lately? No offense to our readers who live in those areas, but I sure as hell don’t want to live there. I didn’t even know there was an area called “Mountain Empire” until I started to do research for this piece. For us city folk, it’s easy to dismiss these areas as simply “the sticks” but given the current housing crisis in the incorporated areas of the county, isn’t it time to start thinking ahead (or, in this case, east and north) when it comes to places that are ripe for development?
For readers who live in one of these unincorporated areas, it’s important not to believe the hype that the all-Republican BoS is trying to sell. It’s that same old song-and-dance; touting themselves as pro-business and pro-jobs while also using “family values” wedge issues to scare voters into thinking their neighborhoods will turn into drugged-out war zones just because someone wants to open up a dispensary or a grow facility.
Marijuana can help transform neighborhoods for the better, but only if readers let their elected officials know where they stand. Supervisor Greg Cox—who along with Supervisor Ron Roberts, were the only two supervisors to vote against the ban—had it right when he pointed out a campaign to collect signatures to place a referendum that would overturn the ban. With over 50 percent of voters in these unincorporated areas having already voted for legal marijuana, one would think our local officials would have gotten the message already. Yet their vision remains a little hazy. Time for them to sober up.