In the city of Los Angeles, after the passing of California proposition 215 several years ago legalizing marijuana for medical use, residents like me saw an explosion of medical marijuana dispensaries, or weed shops. After a year or two, pretty much most blocks in the city, most neighborhoods had several operating. Most operated quietly and privately and in compliance with the city laws. In a difficult economy they provided a needed boost in local real estate leasing and all the support services that go along with it.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Proposition 19 is on the California ballot in the November election and if passed, this will legalize marijuana for personal use, in California.
The city of Los Angeles tried to regulate the dispensaries, but apparently was not successful, as last year the city found itself with over 500 outlets selling medical marijuana. According to the Los Angeles Times, recently, the city has cracked down, and is attempting to reduce the number to 180 or so that applied originally. The city is using strict interpretations of the rules, so strict that most shops do not and can not comply, causing more controversy. The city has decided to sue all the existing shops, to put them all on notice, and let a judge decide.
Although I’m not a marijuana smoker, I’ve smoked in the past and certainly have no problem with those who choose to do it. I’m confident its less harmful, both to the user and to society than alcohol. I’ve also visited the shops and know some of the people involved and see the spectrum.
By that I mean I see really sick people coming in wheelchairs, on social security, buying tiny amounts of the cheapest marijuana, just to really treat their pain. Then you also have gangster types, rolling up in their new Mercedes AMG, buying the maximum amount the law allows of the most expensive strains, as you know they are just going to resell it on the street, they are drug dealers. Same thing for the doctors involved in the issuing of medical marijuana approvals. Some are real doctors who talk to you and don’t just approve everyone, some are mills, making tons of money, just approving who ever walks through the door and hands them cash.
Here in Los Angeles, there is also now a huge number of medical doctors and clinics who offer the medical marijuana approval letters like candy. Even in Venice Beach, I’ve been walking on the boardwalk and seen several clinics operate along the boardwalk with hucksters standing out front with placards, bragging about how easy it is and how you can walk in and get your card immediately. Of course the law was designed to help real sick people, and places like this just make a joke out of it.
Recently, furthering the legalization process, the Los Angeles Times reported Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill into law making possession under an ounce of marijuana an infraction, not a crime. This puts it in the same category as a parking ticket or a jay-walking ticket. Now Prop 19 is coming to the ballot in November across California, this will make possession of less than an ounce, by an adult, legal. Also individuals can also grow a small amount of marijuana for their own personal use. This is all recreational, you won’t need any kind of medical reason or prescription.
With the legalization of medical marijuana, we saw a strong boost to the local economy. Talk to many property owners and landlords who rented to the dispensaries. They paid higher rates, sometimes double, and paid in full, sometimes months in advance. In this economy, with so many vacancies, it was huge benefit that came at a perfect time, when vacancies were sky high.
Those medical marijuana businesses spur other businesses. When a dispensary opens, they need to hire contractors to build out the space. They have employees that also benefit from this new work. The contractors have to buy supplies to build the space, this helps local suppliers and national corporations like Home Depot. They need to paint the space, install lights, buy furniture and computers, all revenue going to local businesses and generating sales taxes.
These dispensaries then hire staff, supporting local families. I’ve seen this cycle myself, it happens with any new business.