What problems?
Cannabis Monkeys
 
A see-no-evil faction in our local government wants to pretend that the regulatory status quo for the local cannabis industry is equal to the task, and only calls for more of the same.  Instead of regulating to strengthen our competitive position in the legal market, they persist in restricting the industry as much as possible in the face of public pressure for responsible and rational policy.  Their lack of judgment and foresight threatens public safety and misses an unprecedented opportunity to help right the City's economic ship.  This is not the visionary leadership our community deserves and so desperately needs.

Our City Attorney's Office continues to push a contorted legal posture for the City which forces our surviving medical cannabis dispensaries to operate under a so-called 'limited immunity' status which explicitly declares them illegal, but says the City won't prosecute them.  Officially tolerating illegal activity is no substitute for sensible regulation, and schizophrenic public policy undermines respect for our institutions and the rule of law.  The current limited immunity policy handicaps our local businesses in the delusional belief that it offers a measure of control over the local industry.  It's completely out of control, and these absurd excuses for rational public policy undercut any chance of achieving control in the real world.

The wide array of cannabis products sold in our illegal-but-tolerated retail outlets must come from somewhere.  The State is currently in the process of developing a comprehensive regulatory framework that will address issues of safety and product quality, as well as operating standards for retail sales.  Meanwhile, in response to demand for these products clandestine business operations continue all across our City with no inspections, no controls over product quality and safety, and no taxation.  Some of our City officials want to pretend it isn't happening so they don't have to get out of their comfort zone.  You were not entrusted with this responsibility to stay in your comfort zone.
Here in California we've only seen the tip of a massive financial iceberg.  The cannabis industry is unique in that we aren't building a consumer market from scratch - the State is now in the process of bringing an existing robust illicit market into the realm of legal regulated commerce.  With the recent passage of an adult use initiative, California will be joining the states already regulating medical and adult use sales, along with others just beginning the process.  The breakdown of projected market share shows the legal adult use sector driving much of the explosive growth.
 
Market statistics and forecasts highlight the folly in thinking that it serves the public interest to try and keep a lid on the local industry.  Consumer spending on legal cannabis products in North America jumped 34% in 2016 to 6.7 billion dollars.  The Arcview market research group, a leading authority on trends in the industry, projects a $22.6 billion market by 2021 at a 27% compound annual growth rate.   Very rarely do we witness a consumer industry reach five billion dollars and then post growth over the next five years anywhere near 25%.   Broadband internet provides the only recent example, growing at 29% through the early 2000's.
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?