County supervisors don’t want Sacramento to vote on cannabis


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Employee Tiana Leaks wipes down counters, doors and seats at the Perfect Union marijuana dispensary on El Camino Blvd on Friday, March 20, 2020.

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The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors rejected the possibility of legal cannabis sales in unincorporated areas at its last meeting, delaying a measure that could reduce illegal marijuana sales and put in place sensible regulations for the health and safety of residents.

Supervisors Sue Frost and Don Nottoli seemed more concerned with the morality of cannabis use than its regulation, despite California voters’ overwhelming endorsement of recreational cannabis in 2016.

County staff estimated cannabis tax revenue could approach $9 million. With that kind of money expected, it’s a wonder supervisors aren’t begging cannabis owners to set up shop in unincorporated areas of the county. Through its Cannabis Business Transaction Tax, the City of Sacramento saw cannabis tax revenue grow from $4.8 million in fiscal year 2017 to $25.4 million in 2021. , depending on the city budget.

County supervisors recently deliberated intensely on allocating a relatively meager $1.4 million to keep Project Roomkey motels open to homeless people. And yet they are depriving themselves of a major source of revenue that is already working well for the city?

Imagine what Sacramento County Human Assistance Director Ethan Dye and his team could do with some or all of the nearly $9 million in marijuana taxes to help those in need. Or imagine how many more small communities of homes for Sacramento families, veterans, women and children could be built. Or do what youth advocacy groups are asking and use the money for prevention programs and communities impacted by mass incarceration after years of unjustly enforced drug laws.

We may never know.

Frost encouraged anti-marijuana residents in his district to organize the meeting. Then she argued that it wasn’t fair for unincorporated Sacramento County to be affected by voters living in the city of Sacramento, where cannabis businesses are already approved. It proved once again that Frost is unwilling to recognize the will of the majority in the face of a vocal minority.

Additionally, Sacramento County cannot be separated from the supposedly godless, pot-smoking liberals living in the city of Sacramento. Residents of the county also use cannabis.

District 3 Supervisor Rich Desmond pointed out that the council can reject the ordinance once the entire county has had a chance to vote, using the level of support from unincorporated residents to inform their final decision.

“But I can’t get to that until we put this on the ballot and hear from unincorporated county residents,” Desmond said. “Cannabis products are prolific in the unincorporated county. It’s everywhere, and the tax revenue all goes to the city of Sacramento. So we’re not just leaving money on the table; we allow a different municipality to be the sole decision maker on how tax dollars are spent.

Supervisor Phil Serna, in an attempt to appease him, jumped on Frost’s rapidly derailing train of thought. At the end of the meeting, after the vote on the measure failed, the Supervisor of District 1 directed county staff to consider a special income tax that could only be voted on by unincorporated parties. County.

“I refuse to accept that Board members cannot find common ground to … give Sacramento County voters the opportunity to consider generating tens of millions in additional revenue,” Serna wrote. in a text after the meeting. “That’s why I’ve asked staff to return to the Board of Supervisors on July 26 with options to put on the November 2022 ballot the possibility of taxing cannabis-related activities and using the additional revenue to improve programs. of the county in order to house and serve our homeless constituents.”

But county sources tell me the county council is unlikely to find a way to appease Frost in time to get action on the November ballot before the deadline at the end of this month.

Even though the cannabis measure received three of five votes from supervisors, it took four votes to pass. Nottoli, who joined Frost in voting against, said cannabis was already available nearby and therefore did not need to be allowed in unincorporated areas. Nottoli argued that ‘it’s not always about revenue’ while simultaneously acknowledging that ‘the most horrific time of (his) career’ was laying off thousands of county workers during the last recession. .

It’s a baffling argument when nearly $9 million could help the county so much, especially in unincorporated areas that tend to be in greater need of investment and revitalization.

With the threat of another recession upon us, Sacramento County cannot justify giving up millions in unrealized revenue when recreational cannabis use is already legal throughout California. Voters have already decided that this is no longer a moral issue.

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Robin Epley is an opinion writer for The Sacramento Bee, with a focus on Sacramento County politics. She was born and raised in Sacramento, was a member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Chico Enterprise-Record team for Campfire Coverage, and graduated from Chico State.

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