Pot bans buoy black market

Chico’s mayor wants to ban pot sales—but the repercussions could be ugly

Considering that a solid majority of Chicoans (61 percent) voted in favor of Proposition 64, the California law legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, you’d think our municipal leaders would at least seek input from constituents about how the city should move forward with policies related to the sale of weed.

Not so. Last month, without substantive discussion by the public, Chico’s mayor, Sean Morgan, backed by his conservative colleagues, ordered the city attorney to craft an ordinance banning all commercial activity involving cannabis. We’re talking about a pot-sales prohibition. That proposed law is expected to end up on a City Council agenda in May.

There are many issues with that approach, including, as we recently noted, the loss of potential sales tax revenue for a city struggling to make ends meet (see “Rush job,” Editorial, March 9). As governments in other states with legalized marijuana have shown, storefront sales have significantly buoyed local coffers.

The bigger picture, however, is that prohibition serves only to prop up the black market. We have a long-running picture of the consequences. Think of the cartel grows in our forests, perils to wildlife and violent crime (see “Out of the dark,” Newslines, page 10).

From our perspective, one of the best ways to mitigate problems associated with cannabis is to bring sales into the light, and that’s what Prop. 64 will accomplish in 2018, when the state begins issuing licenses for retailers and other cannabis-related businesses.

For Chico, it’s a no-brainer: Pot shops make sense not only in terms of the profit they could generate for the city but also in the safe access they would provide for consumers. As we learned years ago during discussions on proposed medical marijuana dispensaries, the city can limit the number of such outlets through land-use criteria and zoning restrictions.

In short, Morgan’s effort will only enrich the existing black market. If he and the conservative City Council majority move forward with such a plan, that’s an outcome they will have to own. If you think that’s a bad move for Chico, make your voice heard.