Lemon Grove’s Measure J is a Trojan Horse that could lead to unfair practices in the cannabis industry.
Measure J is a proposal which is largely understood as existing to establish a Cannabis Business Tax in the city. While the measure talks at length about hypothetical taxations of gross sales of medical cannabis and industrial hemp, it could also serve to circumvent democracy.
A critical underpinning of Measure J is that the measure will move decisions on cannabis legislation from the hands of citizens to the laps of politicians. If passed, Measure J will allow the city council to have full control of Lemon Grove’s cannabis industry policies. For example, city council would be able to adjust cannabis taxes without a public vote, decide arbitrarily on cannabis policy and could unilaterally decide if recreational cannabis could ever be lucky.
At a glance, Measure J appears to be beneficial to the general community. The city attorney’s impartial analysis leads with citing the measure will hypothetically fund fire, safety, roads and recreation. The proposed cannabis taxation will be added to the general fund, which seems reasonable. However, the essence of allowing city council to have full reign of cannabis policy means that citizens would no longer have a say in how their city handles cannabis.
Although the measure states that these taxations are not meant for consumers, cannabis businesses would likely raise their prices as taxes rise in order to protect their bottomline. In the end, city council having full control over cannabis taxation will directly affect the pockets of average medical cannabis patients in the city.
No other cities in the San Diego area have moved to take decisions on cannabis regulations, such as taxation, from a vote to full control of a city council. On the contrary, San Diego and other surrounding cities had detailed legislation to introduce recreational cannabis businesses, and citizens were rightfully allowed to vote on these ordinances.
By removing the public’s right to vote on cannabis issues, the council could take full control of cannabis.
Lemon Grove’s City Council unanimously moved to add Measure J to the November ballot. Some current members of Lemon Grove’s city council have spoken abhorrently about cannabis, cannabis business owners, and actively moved to block Safe Access in the city.
Lemon Grove and its taxpayers have even become fiscally liable for the damages that their local leadership has incurred on members of the cannabis industry. A lawsuit was filed against Councilman David Arambula after he invited a dispensary applicant to his home, and then violently assaulted the man. The victim, Chris Williams, is now running for Mayor of Lemon Grove, with hopes to create actionable change for citizens.
The FBI has been doing a deep dive into corrupt politicians who seek to profit off the cannabis bribes. Corruption within the cannabis industry is nothing new to California, and as more municipalities across the United States move towards legalization, it wont be a surprise if more corruption pops up.
Medical cannabis patients in Lemon Grove have been patiently waiting for dispensaries to open. City council meetings have seen their fair share of public comments wherein medical patients have pleaded for Safe Access to be brought into the city. Despite a desperate need for revenue, and an undeniable need for the essential businesses, Lemon Grove has continued to drag their feet in approving medical dispensaries to open.
Since Lemon Grove’s medical marijuana measure, Measure V, passed in 2016, only one dispensary is currently open for business within the city. Three more dispensaries are slated to open within the coming months.
For legislation that is framed as using cannabis tax money to benefit the community, the measure falls short in addressing which specific communities need the most assistance. The War on Drugs has undisputedly impacted Black and Brown communities in Lemon Grove, as with the rest of the United States.
These same communities have been targets of racist anti-cannabis propaganda since Henry Anslinger and Richard Nixon’s respective times. These communities were incarcerated at disproportionate rates for cannabis crimes, despite uniformly having equivalent rates of cannabis use to those of white communities.
A cannabis measure that could serve the city of Lemon Grove would be one that focuses on rebuilding and providing reparative resources to the Black and Brown communities that have been harmed by the War on Drugs. Legislation that takes cannabis policy from democracy to city council’s hands could simply feed back door politics, and likely avoid any restorative justice that BIPOC communities deserve.
In order for cannabis to remain as an industry that serves its community, the future of Lemon Grove’s cannabis industry must remain in the hands of the public, not five politicians.
*Chris Williams is the founder of Candid Chronicle. Featured image via Lemon Grove.