California Cities Are Rethinking Their Marijuana Business Bans

Nearly two dozen California municipalities are considering revising their bans on marijuana retail sales. This is often due to citizen pressure or threat from a local ballot initiative.

California’s legalization of recreational marijuana in California following Proposition 64’s 2016 passage has been a messy affair. This ballot measure gave municipalities the power to restrict or ban marijuana cultivation within their boundaries. That’s what the majority of cities did. Two-thirds (63%) of California cities had banned marijuana businesses.  Even though marijuana is legal in California, most residents of the Golden State don’t have access to a dispensary where they can legally purchase it.

This is one reason, along with high taxes, that black market marijuana sales average around $8 billion annually. In comparison to the $5.2 billion legal sale for 2021.

Now some cities, which had banned marijuana dispensaries quickly (sometimes in places where the majority voted for Prop. 64), are reconsidering their decision.

Simi Valley’s City Council, for instance, voted to reconsider a 2018 ban on marijuana production, cultivation and sales within its city boundaries. Simi Valley was the case. Citizens were allowed to vote by advisory on whether marijuana businesses should be permitted. This failed by just over 2,000 votes.

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Simi Valley Mayor Keith Mashburn says that residents have asked the city to reconsider the matter, and will poll residents again for feedback. Some leaders may have money in their minds, which is not surprising. The city may not permit direct sales. Ventura County StarSimi valley still has the ability to receive tax revenue for delivery sales within city limits. It collects around $15,000 per year. Local government will be able to try to get a portion of the $8 billion black market sales if more is shifted to legal purchase.

The same reason is why Healdsburg in Sonoma County, which has a large marijuana market, may lift its prohibition. Jeff Kay, the City Manager, estimates marijuana sales will bring about jobs, hundreds of thousands in tax revenue and a lot of money, but he cautioned that it would not transform into a cash cow.

Citizens are pushing for local ballot measures to permit cannabusiness in some cities. Huntington Beach has two citizens who have signed petitions to push the city towards legalizing marijuana. Voice of OCNoting that these two people don’t appear to have collected signatures yet, Huntington Beach’s government plans to ask voters at a June election if they’d like to tax pot businesses, in order to allow them to shop in Huntington Beach.

Erik Peterson, Huntington Beach City Council Member, stated bluntly that legalization of cannabis was coming and it is imminent. The best thing the council could do is to get in front.

Many cities across the state are mulling over similar changes—Anaheim, Riverside, Santee, and more than a dozen others, if media coverage from across the state is to be believed. While they may be motivated on some levels by the desire to increase revenue, in others cases leaders respond to citizens and put aside panic about marijuana. It has helped, too, that legalizing marijuana in the last five years hasn’t caused all the panics the fearmongers claimed. California’s problems with marijuana corruption and black market are a result of the restrictive government policies.

The city leaders are right on the money, unlike state legislators who have lost their way and believe they can control the illegal marijuana market through increased criminal penalties and fines. The drug war failed in its mission to eradicate the marijuana black market, as we have seen from years of raids. Stop trying to stop the black market and open up a million marijuana shops.