So what can we expect from the California market as it emerges from the shadows? Of that $6.7 billion market in North America in 2016, Colorado garnered 20% and Washington 11%. California, with a population that dwarfs these two states, only accounted for 27% of the total sales through its medical dispensaries. When we look at what has been happening to the illegal black market sector in the states pioneering adult use, the future of the industry in California comes into focus.
Through a regulatory process developed over several years that includes adult use, Colorado has managed to shrink the illegal market share down to nearly a quarter of the total. Washington and Oregon started later, but their legal regulated sector has already captured half of the black market share of total spending on cannabis products. Colorado's governor opposed cannabis legalization as a candidate, citing many of the same concerns we hear in our local debate. With real life experience the Governor has had a change of heart, noting that the drug dealers seem to be leaving town. His administration's cannabis czar reports that the fears legalization would lead to an increase in use among teens or the general public proved unfounded. In fact usage rates haven't changed much at all. "I think that was another worry, that there would be crime-ridden streets and everything would be incredibly dangerous," he said. "We're not seeing any of that."
What we do see in the data is that as states provide legal access, the illicit market share shrinks. In California the medical cannabis industry has so far only replaced a quarter of the existing black market. That statistic offers a glimpse of what is coming over the next five years as the state refines its regulations for adult use and legitimate businesses replace criminal enterprises. In Colorado retail sales in adult-use and medical dispensaries doubled from $675 million in 2014, to over $1.3 billion in 2016. Does this sound like an industry that we should be actively discouraging here in Vallejo? Where is the need for economic development any greater than right here at home?
Those afflicted with this peculiar myopia rendering them unable to discern writing on the wall in giant neon letters need to quit monkeying around and get out of the way. Our City government has repeatedly demonstrated its inability to deal with this issue in a sensible and timely fashion, and should leave the actual regulating to the State agencies who clearly intend to own this process. Our local officeholders need only strike the current limited immunity ordinance from the municipal code in it's entirety, and replace it with simple language that freezes the number of dispensaries at the current level and specifies the allowable zoning districts for retail outlets. Leave the rest to the State. Easy - they can get this thorny mess off their plate and let those who actually know the industry go to work creating jobs and additional tax revenue for them to spend. Is that really too much to ask?