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.