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Oakland Goes to Pot

Something’s rotten in the State of California. The New York Times recently reported that the budget crisis has forced the city of Oakland to look for unusual ways to raise cash. Their solution: marijuana dispensaries. With a declining tax base and poor business climate brought about by the recession, marijuana dispensaries account for a full three percent of the city’s business tax revenue.

Where other municipalities would worry about the long-term consequences of high drug usage in the city, Oakland’s leadership sees opportunity. Acting on this data, city administrators plan to double the number of dispensaries from four to eight, hoping for a corresponding boost to the city budget.

While this may seem like an innovative way to expand the tax base, Oakland’s decision strikes us as short-sighted. City funding tied to high marijuana sales is probably not sustainable in the long term, and these taxes are, to put it mildly, no panacea for the deep-seated, structural problems with local government budgets.

On the brighter side, late-night pizza parlors will be making a killing.


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  • Eurydice

    Hmmm…well, according to the LA Times, others who’ll be making a killing are those who smoke pot and then drive.

  • Corlyss

    “Oakland’s leadership sees opportunity.”

    Interesting that rather than give up their contempt for business and their ideological devotion to high taxes to save their welfare state, they turn to drug dealing. Personally, I saw opportunity decades ago. Give up the drug war. Legalize drugs.Take the obsene money out of the operations. End the wanton killing. Tax drugs like alcohol and cigarettes. Don’t be stupid. Make some money into the bargain.

  • Edward Grey, 1st Viscount Grey of Fallodon

    If this has insufficient impact, maybe they can turn the Marriott City Center into a bordello.

  • Mrs. Davis

    If this has insufficient tax impact, maybe they can turn the Marriott City Center into a bordello.

  • vanderleun

    Oakland’s history make it a done deal that their municipal government is going to be dumber than a box of hammers.

  • a

    Good to see that the “lol stoners” approach to drug policy still has some partisans.

  • SC Mike

    I think they’ll be disappointed in the revenue generated by the marijuana dispensaries. Initially the take will likely be impressive, but over time entrepreneurs will offer prices and services (home delivery, higher THC levels, financing plans, lower prices, bulk discounts, etc.) that will cannibalize the municipality’s market share. Pot’s easily transportable and concealable. It would be almost impossible to separate the legal / licensed use from the outlaw product.

    Prostitution is already widespread in Oakland, and the city would probably screw that up too by using quarter-fed meters or some such nonsense.

    So why not try what Maryland and some parts of South Carolina are considering, video slot machines? Hook every licensed machine into a network so the city can monitor the play and compute its take in real time. The cops can keep rivals at bay by confiscating unauthorized machines; they are harder for the criminals to mover around because of their size and the fact that players need to know where they are so they can strike it rich. Sure, some clever guys will convert buses and camouflage them to look like the mass-transit models, but they’ll be easy to pick out because they don’t stop at the bus-stops.

    Oh, wait, we’re talking Oakland…

  • Kris

    “The spliffs are being lit all over Oakland. We shall not see them put out again in our time”.

    Eurydice@1, are you proposing Oakland become a “dry” city?

  • LarryD

    @2 What make you believe that legalization would drive the criminals out of the drug business? Why would their behavior change just because they no longer have to worry about the police?

  • Kris

    LarryD@2: It seems incredible that you didn’t expect the reply: “Dramatically lowered profits. See prohibition.” So why didn’t you save everybody’s time and immediately address that?

  • Kris

    LarryD@9, of course.
    (The moderator is free to act as editor.)

  • Eurydice

    @Kris #8 – I wasn’t proposing anything, just pointing out an article in the newspaper.

    In any case, I’m not sure the interpretation of this story is quite right. The impression here is that Oakland is in such a dire financial position that it has to resort to drug dealing to make ends meet. But Oakland and its constituents have been trying to legalize pot for years now and have been getting around the laws by pushing in any way they can. Adding more dispensaries seems like more of the same to me – and if they also add more money to the budget, why not?

    Of course, time will tell what the health costs will be. Addiction aside, it can’t be good to breathe anything but air. And the tax base might be eroded what with lung disease, car crashes and a low birth rate from diminished sperm count, but that’s a worry for another day.

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