Recreational marijuana sales have more benefits than meet the eye

Heidi Roenisch

On Election Day, many marijuana enthusiasts rejoiced as Proposition 64 passed, legalizing recreational marijuana for those 21 and over in California. However, while possession of the substance is now legal statewide, it is up to individual counties to determine if they will allow the sale of recreational pot. Currently, its sale within Marin County limits is banned until 2018, at which point the Board of Supervisors can choose to extend or modify the ban, or to begin issuing permits to allow its recreational sale. Regardless of one’s personal view on marijuana, the Board of Supervisors should not vote to extend the ban for economic and safety reasons.

Imagine that you are craving a burger but there are no such restaurants open in your town. Luckily, just 15 minutes away in the next county over there is a In-n-Out ready and waiting to satisfy your fast food fix. Would you make the trip?

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A similar situation exists with Marin. Neighboring cities such as Oakland and San Francisco have already established that they will permit the sale of recreational marijuana beginning in 2018. These places, just a short drive or a bridge away, are not far enough to be a significant deterrent to lower consumption in Marin. According to the Denver Post, this scenario exists in Vail, Colorado, which does not permit the sale of recreational pot. However, towns just five minutes away from Vail have legalized sales and have reaped hundreds of thousands in revenue and the stimulation of business growth from the patronage of Vail residents and tourists alike.

Instead, Marin County will lose out on revenue generated by the 15 percent tax on all recreational marijuana transactions as mandated by Prop 64. Manitou Springs, a town just outside Colorado Springs, has seen a 64 percent increase in sales tax revenues since they started selling recreational marijuana, from $2.4 to $3.8 million, according to the Denver Post. This has allowed them to fund flood mitigation projects, road improvements and grow their reserve funds. Marin could similarly benefit, whether using revenues to fund public facility improvement projects or increase spending on local schools.

To be clear, I am not arguing for the legalization of marijuana. Instead, I am suggesting since the decision has already been made, we take advantage of it.

Moreover, the majority of Marin, specifically 69.75 percent, voted for the passage of Prop 64. Therefore, the county’s policies should accurately reflect the will of its constituents and not be overridden by the Board of Supervisors, who represent the will of the people far less directly.

However, this is not to say that Marin County should not heavily regulate the sale of recreational marijuana. The opposition to legalization presents valid concerns that marijuana-laced edibles such as candy or baked goods could unfairly target children and teens. But the solution to this is not a blanket ban. Instead, it makes more sense to legalize the sale of recreational pot in Marin so it can be tightly regulated and directly controlled. The alternative is to force people to go to other towns and cities that may have much looser regulations or none at all, which would arguably pose more of a threat.  

It is now no longer a question of whether recreational marijuana should be legal in California, it is where. Whether you supported  Prop 64 or not, it is time to legalize recreational marijuana sales in Marin both for the economic benefit and so we can regulate it as we see fit.