Governments across the Inland Empire are continuing to grapple with the problem of marijuana prohibition versus regulation, even after majorities of voters in both Riverside and San Bernardino counties backed statewide legalization in 2016.
Voters, in approving Proposition 64, made their thoughts clear on the issue of whether the farce of marijuana prohibition should continue or not. While some Inland communities, like Palm Springs, were well ahead of the pack long before Proposition 64 was passed by permitting medical marijuana dispensaries, most others are still lagging behind.
Take, for example, the city of Riverside. Most voters supported marijuana legalization. Yet on July 10, the city council will discuss prohibition of all marijuana businesses except for laboratory testing facilities. On May 31, the city’s own planning commission rejected the proposal to prohibit marijuana, but Councilmen Chuck Conder and Steve Adams want to ignore the views of the public and proceed with prohibition anyway.
While they’re understandably concerned with the potential public safety impacts of broader, legal access to marijuana, pretending prohibition in Riverside will keep marijuana out of the city is obviously mistaken. People will continue to purchase marijuana in and around Riverside on a legal and illegal basis, and consume it.
The question is whether Riverside wants to bring the black market above ground and collect revenues from legal businesses to help mitigate any deleterious impacts of legal marijuana. That’s the matter at hand.
Meanwhile, in the city of San Bernardino, marijuana legalization and regulation continues to be an overly complicated matter. Back in 2014, City Attorney Gary Saenz sought to “present a plan which essentially acknowledges the futility and high cost” of prohibition. Just as it appeared that effort was gaining momentum, it was silently killed.
Fast forward four years later, majorities of San Bernardino voters have approved two legalization measures for the city, the prevailing measure was struck down in court, the city has put in place ordinances of their own and now they’re facing legal challenges and the prospect of even more ballot initiatives.
Such a disjointed state of affairs is unfortunately one consequence of governments failing to heed the wishes of the public, accept the futility of prohibition and make legalization work.