Rush job

Conservatives on City Council are moving fast to prohibit pot shops

The Chico City Council’s vote this week to have the city attorney draft an ordinance banning the commercial sale of recreational marijuana was not only a premature move but also one that stands to siphon from the city what could be a desperately needed new revenue stream.

What we know is that municipalities in other states that have already legalized marijuana are reaping the economic rewards. As Meredith J. Cooper reported in a cover story last fall (see “Learning curve,” Sept. 29), sales tax on marijuana in Boulder, Colo., amounted to between 2 percent and 3 percent of that city’s annual overall sales tax. That adds about $2 million a year to the coffers of a city whose population is actually smaller than Chico’s urban area (about 107,000).

That’s a lot of money that could go to Chico’s badly degraded infrastructure, including park maintenance and street repair, as well as projects such as affordable housing.

Mayor Sean Morgan made the motion Tuesday evening (March 7) to draft that proposed ordinance, and he was supported by his three conservative colleagues. Clearly, it’s coming from an ideological perspective. We can’t help but see the irony in the fact that Morgan, who appears to relish his nickname (Captain Morgan) based on a brand of Jamaican rum, buys into the reefer madness narrative. As study after study have shown, alcohol is much more dangerous than pot.

Moreover, the conservative majority made the decision without holding any type of stakeholders’ meeting on this issue to gauge the desires of their constituents. Fact is, locals want access to recreational marijuana. More than 60 percent of Chicoans who headed to the polls in November voted in favor of Proposition 64, the state law that legalizes the herb for recreational use.

Dispensaries make sense, both in terms of the profit they will generate for the city and the safe access they will provide for those who are now at the mercy of the black market. 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.

Allowing for dispensaries simply will not degrade the city, though that likely will be the narrative when the proposed ordinance comes back to the council for a vote. Don’t buy into that hype.