Op-Ed | Don Bessee: Why should the neighborhoods suffer revisited?

February 8, 2018 – We have been having a long conversation about commercial marijuana’s impacts on communities and neighborhoods. During the prop 64 lead up and campaign there were some very interesting conversations and warnings.

I set up a press conference in late oct. 2016 in the heart of the financial district in SF where SAM stood with leaders of the medical marijuana community. We were there to put a spotlight on the tricks in prop 64. That brought a very diverse group together to voice an area of significant agreement. All of us there took heat for it.

We warned that the supermajority clause made the rest meaningless and that SAM’s long warned Big Tabaco 2.0 would come to Cali. So did UCSF addiction researchers. We were right. We were right on so many levels.

I warned of the law enforcement street view from states that went commercial medical and commercial party pot before us. The urban and small town homeless magnet issues in CO. The quality of life crime increases and public drug use. Then there was the wanton abuse of the hard rules. As time went on the tax money got gobbled up by administration of the commercial track and tax system. A system that did nothing to decrease the black market. It only empowered it. Take for example the hide in plain sight criminal gang activity where they set up pot shops without licenses. It’s a whack a mole without any real enforcement ability, just like LA now.

We were promised by Newsom et al. that all the problems would go away when we legalized.

It has been very interesting to watch all the moves since the passage of 64 in Nov. 2016, very interesting.

Let’s look at the facts on the ground right now. As it sits there are all of 17 Counties that are commercial. 1 allows deliveries. That means that all the other Counties are not commercial. Yes, the vast majority of Cali is non-commercial.

The reality on the ground across the state of California it that things are not better on any level, they are worse and getting worse.

It was gratifying that the head of the State pot growers sued the state recently for doing exactly what we warned about. It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, if that’s the case, thanks Hez.

According to Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, which filed the suit in Sacramento County Superior Court, the farm-size caps are essential to stop the industry from becoming “Big Tobacco 2.0”

Last week I was at another press conference in SF. I was standing shoulder to shoulder with the Catholic Archdiocese of SF, the head of the Congress On Racial Equality (CORE) and The Pacific Justice Foundation among others. The event was held in a very special location.

We were in the magnificent Chinese Episcopal Church on Noriega in SF. A Church that has a full day care and all day long bi-lingual tutoring. The planning commission in SF had made the egregious decision to allow a pot shop across the street in violation of prop 64. The worst part is it was a politically connected former mayor of Oakland that got the ok. The righteous uproar forced even the SF Board of Supervisors to grant the appeal to protect the neighborhood. A neighborhood of color.

The facts are that most liquor stores and pot shops are in neighborhoods of color.

I spoke about the facts in NorCal.

We have had elected officials in Truckee threatened when the community wisely rejected commercial weed.

Nevada County has too many stories of abused neighborhoods like Wolf Dr. Do any of you feel safer in your neighborhood? I hear NO in a big way every day.

The audit of the commercial pot shops in Sac. City showed they were selling black market weed, lying, cheating and even refusing entry to auditors even though the license required it. On Kathleen Ave in Sac the city is not protecting homeowners who are getting harassed for opposing a license applicant who is running without a license.

We were promised that things would get better, have they for your neighborhood?

What I hear from people who failed in other states in the weed business and locals who have no idea about what real world business plans are is that we MUST make what they want to do legal here everywhere. Do we really? I think we need to see an enforcement model in CA that works first.

Don Bessee is the Executive Director of SAM NorCal.