Mayoral Candidate Chris Williams Weighs In On Measure J

By Chris Williams

It seems the majority of people in Lemon Grove are misinformed on what Measure J actually is, including my opponents in the mayoral candidacy. I’m not against taxing cannabis but, I’m not voting for Measure J for many reasons.

No matter how anyone slices it, taxation always gets passed down to the consumer. A large number of customers who will patronize our dispensaries will be Lemon Grove residents. As such, I believe any cannabis measure should take our residents into consideration first. Lower taxes ultimately means a more affordable product for the consumer. Lower taxes can always be used as a tool to recruit new businesses, the cannabis industry is no outlier in that respect. The over-taxation of legal cannabis continues to fuel illegal dispensaries and is counterproductive to all in my opinion.

Measure J does not legalize recreational cannabis on any level. It just takes the power from the people and places it in the hands of the city council and staff indefinitely. That means in theory, the city council can do what they want, when they want, when it comes to any and all things cannabis. 

These are practically the same folks who couldn’t get one legal medical dispensary opened in four years. Measure J, as written, will encourage pay to play scenarios with city officials. This is a big problem happening in many cities and that is a big liability for taxpayers. The measure does a very poor job of outlining any policy at all. The ambiguity in the measure is senseless but intentional. It is a power grab.

Residents should ask themselves what they are really voting for or against with Measure J. I am never in favor of giving the government total control of anything. It is a recipe for disaster.

Grouping cannabis and hemp together and charging the same sales tax for two completely different industries is also bad policy. It will keep hemp companies from calling Lemon Grove home. It will stall the environmental benefits and advantages of hemp. We can’t allow that. 

Measure J lacks any policy to undo the war on drugs, there is no local or social equity component. So the government can pay its bills with cannabis, but the thousands of people who tried to pay their bills with cannabis are still locked up or considered criminals from their record? Matter of fact, my opponents believe cannabis taxes should be invested in more police and government bureaucracy. I wholeheartedly disagree, cannabis tax revenue should be allocated towards community investments like parks and rec, youth enrichment, mental health services, drug prevention, and assisting our unsheltered population.

It is endlessly important that we define legislation and likewise avoid the discretionary liabilities of politicians. I suggest we thoroughly define tax revenue opportunities for the city by land use and municipal codes. My opponents could make the commitment to base cannabis permitting on zoning, sensitive use setbacks, parking, etc. 

In effect, this is a ministerial permit, or a permit that is granted upon a determination that a proposed project complies with established standards. Standards for cannabis permitting are set forth in the zoning ordinance and/or other applicable policy documents. 

These determinations are arrived at through reference to objective standards and involve little or no personal judgment. That is one way we can cut red tape, streamline businesses and therefore increase tax revenue for L.G. 

Ministerial permits will also help to prevent corruption which is a huge liability and opportunity lost cost for taxpayers.

Full transparency to the public is #1 priority. The public should have full access to all permitting processes minus any necessary redactions online. It is the public’s right to this information, it shouldn’t be so hard to get or find. The opportunity to get into the industry should not be only for the rich, just like the cannabis policies we pass should not only benefit the government and special interest. Measure J is a no for me and from my standpoint, it will stay a no, until the city’s proposed policies put the people first.  

* Chris Williams is founder of Candid Chronicle.