It won’t come as a surprise to anyone reading this opinion piece that much has changed in the City of Milpitas since I moved here with my family in 1963. A small town where the Ford Motor Assembly Plant dominated the local economy has morphed into a cutting edge city that is home to high tech and one of the most diverse populations in the country. The challenges faced by elected officials in Milpitas have changed as well. This month, the Milpitas City Council will be faced with the dilemma of how to regulate cannabis. In a city where even the remnants of a marijuana cigarette would land you jail for an extended period of time just 30 years ago is now a city ensconced in a County and State where the use of cannabis is legal and widely accepted.
What may come as a surprise to some, however, is my belief that the sale of cannabis should be allowed in our city. It should, in my opinion, be sold in appropriate locations away from kids and schools, taxed appropriately, and regulated by our police department to ensure that our neighborhoods are not negatively effected by cannabis dispensaries in any way.
While I served as Mayor and Councilman for nearly 30 years, I often railed against cannabis from the dais. I saw the medicinal marijuana industry as a scam, with the premise of “compassionate care” for patients in need subverted by doctors and weed purveyors who would approve a marijuana medical card for just about anyone with $99 bucks in their wallet. I stand by my criticism of how the medical marijuana industry began caring less about those who were critically ill, and in some cases terminally ill, and instead began mass marketing cannabis to those who really did not need it, particularly young adults.
But when California voters approved the legalization of the recreational use of cannabis in 2016, that changed things for me. I didn’t vote in favor of legalization, and I don’t use cannabis in any form. But the statewide vote was convincing and since then, public opinion seems to have moved even more towards support for responsible cannabis use in our communities. It’s time now for the Milpitas City Council to recognize this change and approve cannabis dispensaries and strictly regulated delivery of cannabis within our city.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are societal problems associated with the use of cannabis that must be addressed as part of any City Council move to open cannabis dispensaries in our city. And it’s worth mentioning that in my opinion, the cannabis industry consistently down plays these problems. Smoking marijuana has serious deleterious health effects on those who use it. Cannabis can easily become a gateway drug for our youth, and the instances of those driving under the influence of cannabis is on the rise with it’s recent legalization.
So this is where taxation of cannabis comes into play. The City should earmark a portion of the cannabis tax that will inevitably be approved by Milpitas voters in 2020 towards police enforcement and public education. The rest should remain in the general fund to assist with other city services (like road maintenance) that cannabis businesses will impact once they begin operation. The City should move towards enlightened policies that allow for the sale of cannabis within Milpitas, while giving the community the tools it needs to protect neighborhoods and our youth from any negative impacts that we know are part and parcel of cannabis use.
Former Milpitas Mayor and Councilman