Potential Profits Up in Smoke?

Marijuana is big business in California. So why do we destroy confiscated plants rather than sell them and circulate the profit back into the state?

I know as much about pot as I do Harry Potter: It's just not my thing. I don't know the difference between a nug and a dime bag, if that's what marijuana-smoking folks are calling it these days. 

But pot is popular. And in the state of California, for those of us who suffer from stress, back pain, glaucoma or headaches, it's legal to smoke up and even grow a few plants of our own. Within a five-mile radius of my house, there are 15 medicinal marijuana dispensaries. There's one in La Crescenta.

Weed is big business. Pop into a dispensary and prices for an eighth of an ounce can range from $30 to $60 for the top shelf; baked goods like pot cookies can be had for under ten bucks. The California Board of Equalization recently reported to the East Bay Express that thanks to the 2.9 million Californians who purchase medicinal marijuana each month from dispensaries, "the board estimates it collects anywhere from $50 million to $100 million in sales taxes per year."

So, consider those 12 marijuana plants Los Angeles Sheriff's Department deputies confiscated up on Alta Canyada Road July 16. After deputies locate a grow, they set it on fire. (Yes, seriously). To me, these are potential profits up in smoke.

Ok, 12 plants pale to the recently discovered 18,000 (worth nearly $37 million) from the Los Padres National Forest, but they still produced a product that produced profits.

Patch sent several emails to Capt. Dave Silversparre of the Crescenta Valley Station, but they were not immediately returned. Captain, if you'd care to weigh in with your thoughts on recycling pot profits back into the state's economy, please leave a comment below. 

We all know the state is in trouble and that the estimated $26 billion budget deficit is one piece of the funding apocalypse pie. Services are being cut. Parks are going to close. Felons are going to be freed. And we already have one of the highest tax rates in the nation.

Last year, authorities found 42,000 marijuana plants growing in the Santa Monica Mountains. Estimated to be worth $130 million, that comes out to each plant having a value of about 3,000 bucks.  Last month, authorities ripped 3,500 plants from a 10-acre area in those mountains. According to the Los Angeles Times, "environmental damage caused by marijuana cultivation in otherwise pristine natural areas costs approximately $12,000 per acre to clean up.” 

So basically, we spent $120,000 destroying and cleaning up something we could have legally sold for $10.5 million and then collected taxes on?

We sell other confiscated goods at police auctions, why not sell the weed to dispensaries, make the state and local governments some money, and then get even more money from the tax revenues? Why not sell the plants to authorized growers? 

Am I high, or is California taking free money and burning it into a purple haze?

I'm certainly not thinking we should encourage criminal behavior or sell products to Californians that may be less safe than, say, recalled office chairs. I know there are bigger issues here and perhaps I have yet to scratch the surface. But I would really enjoy someone explaining it to me.

Like I said, I don't understand much about weed, and I'm kind of bad at math, but I do understand debt - just ask Sallie Mae.

Lisa Dupuy July 25, 2011 at 10:17 PM
I think you make a solid point, Lynda. If there's a legal market for the confiscated marijuana, why not make some money off it? Don't they resell confiscated cars? I wonder if the $120,000 spent to clean up the burned weed is being paid for by the extra fees charged to homeowners who live in fire-prone areas.
Ricky Grubb July 31, 2011 at 10:55 PM
The National Forests are leased out to grazing livestock and coal mines, but not to grow crops I presume. I support efforts to keep inappropriate uses/users prohibiting and preventing damage to "Public" lands, lets just apply the law fairly. Not long ago, The confiscation of cars, even land and houses was out of control and "civil forfieture" became THE prime motive for drug department raids ostencibly carried out to save us from "Pot Manufacturers",leading to Supreme Court curbing such civil forfieture without arrest or conviction "unreasonable siezure", Seemingly not all police departments across America have gotten behind the spirit of the SCOTUS decision though. When Hemp PLANTS are confiscated (as opposed to confiscating prepared and dried smokeable flowering tops, Hashis or edible medicals etc), in order to bring the "Sweet Cane" or Quaneh bosem, the "Ganja", commodity to market, first the female Hemp Flowers must be grown to maturity, then the flowering tops are ready to harvest, cure, dry and trim. Not that dificult, maybe make the (arrestee, the plea bargained) grower stay, tend and harvest the saleable material with novisitors and under house arrest, as community service. America imports hundreds of thousands of tonnes of Hemp fiber and seed (food and oils) grown in Canada, the Iron Curtain slavic nations, China, hell everywhere BUT America and without incident. What, are we that week morally? Can't American Farmers be trusted to grow Hemp crops (again)?
ROBERT E. FISHBACK December 03, 2012 at 05:04 AM
Yes, we are that week (sic) morally. Pot greatly alters the mind, and I admit, some minds need to be altered, but pot usually opens the door to hard drugs. Reality will always be with us, learn to deal with it instead of blinding yourself to it.


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