Why Placer County Will Not Participate in Any Legal Marijuana Scheme

By Placer County Supervisor Kirk Uhler

***Editor’s Note: The following article is one viewpoint on how local governments in California are preparing for the legalization of recreational marijuana starting Jan. 1, 2018 in the State of California. On Dec. 27, an opposing viewpoint was published in the article “How Los Angeles Is Moving Forward With Governing the City’s Commercial Cannabis Industry.”

After extensive discussion and over 18 hours of public comment in several different hearings, the Placer County Board of Supervisors has taken the position that we will not participate in any legal marijuana scheme. Why? Setting aside all the societal ills associated with the proliferation of the drug, the numbers just don’t add up.

On October 30, 2017, The Los Angeles Times reported that 61 cities and counties have adopted local business taxes on marijuana sales ranging from 7.75% to 9.75% of the purchase price of recreational marijuana which, according to Priceofweed.com is currently $220/ounce in California.

In a July 19, 2016, article, Live Science reported that information gathered on more than 10,000 purchases of marijuana over 11 years revealed that the average amount of marijuana used in one marijuana cigarette was .01 ounces.

This makes the average cost of a marijuana cigarette in California $2.20. That means that at the higher rate of 9.75%, the local tax revenue would be $.21 per marijuana cigarette consumed.

The average fully-burdened cost of a law enforcement officer is around $150,000 in California. This means that just in Placer County, there would need to be the equivalent of 714,000 legal marijuana cigarettes sold (assuming no loss of revenue to the black market) to cover the cost of just one new law enforcement officer to enforce the marijuana regulatory scheme across all six incorporated cities and the unincorporated county. Just one new officer to enforce the new law in a county of 380,000 people and 1,000,000 acres.

A 2015 report by The Police Foundation titled “COLORADO’S LEGALIZATION OF MARIJUANA AND THE IMPACT ON PUBLIC SAFETY” concluded, “It is too early to tell what effect legalized marijuana will have on crime and public safety overall. Nonetheless, Colorado law enforcement officials have observed some concerning trends in drug use, most notably with youth and young adults. Law enforcement officials also say they are spending increased amounts of time and funds on the challenges of enforcing the new laws surrounding legal marijuana.”

Anyone who thinks the numbers work in the favor of local government must be smoking something.

Kirk Uhler represents the 4th District on the Placer County Board of Supervisors. The opinions in this article are presented in the spirit of spurring discussion and reflect those of the author and not necessarily the Treasurer, his office or the State of California.