By Erik Wiese, President, Wiese & Associates
September 26, 2021 (Santee) -- The city Councilmembers and staff of Santee should be congratulated on their historical opposition to allowing cannabis dispensaries to open up in our city. For years, they have maintained the health and safety of our citizens as their primary concerns.
In contrast, anyone who travels down Greenfield Drive, a zone administered by the County of San Diego, will see the litter, the addicted homeless and the boarded up, defaced, semi-destroyed, former cannabis dispensaries. This blight upon our neighborhoods is the inevitable result of the County tolerating illegal drug pushers in our midst. The “compassionate” tolerance of medical cannabis for the ill has now morphed into the promotion in some cities of recreational cannabis. The drug dealers make huge profits, while the legitimate businesses suffer a great loss of income; as their customers now avoid travelling to what they perceive as a dangerous neighborhood. The drug dealers get rich, while legitimate businesses suffer and the neighborhood deteriorates.
At the same time that California is trying to fight against tobacco and spending $326 million in state funds to combat tobacco use, we are insensibly promoting marijuana use.
- Smoking related health care costs are estimated at $13.29 billion per year in California.
- Smoking related losses in productivity are estimated at $10.35 billion per year.
These smoking statistics are compiled by the Center for Disease Control and can be verified at this hyperlink. (https://truthinitiative.org/research-resources/smoking-region/tobacco-use-california-2020) It is completely nonsensical to use our State tax dollars to fight against the ill effects of tobacco use, and do the exact opposite when it comes to fighting against the ill effects of Cannabis use. Yet, instead of fighting the spread of Cannabis, some of our elected leaders seem intent on promoting it.
I am not for illegalizing tobacco or alcohol, but we should not be legalizing another drug that is even more destructive. Cigarettes have filters. Marijuana joints do not. If we truly love our fellow man, we should be seeking to minimize the use of substances that negatively effect our health and our judgement. And as our health care costs become more and more socialized, it behooves us fiscally to encourage our fellow citizens to take care of their health. Otherwise, we pay extra in our premiums to cover their medical care costs. We pay more in lost productivity when absenteeism increases. We pay more in pain in suffering when our love ones get broadsided in hit and run car accidents by those under the influence. In this case, love for our fellow man is synonymous with love for our own welfare.
In the fiscal year 2020, California received $2.921 billion in revenue from tobacco settlement payments and sin taxes. These payments are an undisputed admission by the tobacco companies, that their products negatively affect the health of their customers. The tobacco companies are legal companies that have be held to account for lying about the health of their products. There will be no cannabis dealers with large bank accounts that can be levied against for their lies about cannabis. These marijuana drug pushers are fly-by-night operators who burn and churn through neighborhoods leaving addiction, filth and destroyed real estate behind them.
If tobacco use causes $13.29 billion in health care costs, and loss in productivity of $10.35 billion per year, does anyone really think cannabis use is less destructive or less addictive? Why are we sensibly fighting tobacco use while illogically promoting cannabis use? For example, alcohol and tobacco sales have been outlawed on billboards. Yet, throughout East County, cannabis companies prominently advertise on billboards. Is this evidence of schizophrenia, or simply moral confusion?
Unfortunately, the staff of Santee has been directed by some of the Santee City Councilmembers to consider bringing dispensaries and drug labs into Santee. A copy of their Cannabis Workshop Agenda (See attachment cannabisAgenda.pdf) is hyperlinked. On August 11th, I and about 40 other concerned citizens showed up to the City Council meeting to unanimously encourage our elected representatives to remain strong in their historical opposition to Cannabis within City limits.
In preparation for this meeting, I did a great deal of research on this topic. Attached is a list of studies that document the following arguments:
- Marijuana usage as measured in roadside testing shows marijuana is in the blood stream of 12.6% of weekend nighttime drivers aged 16 and over. Drug use is a significant and growing problem.
- Those with the chemical THC, from Marijuana, in their blood streams are 3-7 times more likely to be responsible for a crash than those who are clean and sober. Marijuana use causes a tremendous increase in automobile accidents and fatalities.
- Marijuana is addictive to 9% of adults and 17% of teens.
- 4 million people in the United States are considered dependent or addicted.
- Marijuana use among teenagers is growing steadily.
- Medical emergencies related to Marijuana have also increased.
- THC Content in confiscated Marijuana samples has increased from 3.8% in the 1990s to 50-80% today. Consequently, cannabis is far more addictive today than in the 1990s.
- Marijuana use causes memory loss, impaired thinking and interferes with a person’s ability to learn and perform complicated tasks. The loss can be as high as 6-8 permanently lost IQ points for persistent cannabis users. Those who consistently get wasted, are permanently damaging their brains.
- 48 Studies in New Zealand show that students who smoke marijuana have poorer educational outcomes than their nonsmoking peers. Since extra education is consistently correlated with making more money, those who drop out of school from Cannabis use are relegating themselves to second-class wage earners.
- Several studies have also linked heavy marijuana use to lower income, greater welfare dependence, unemployment, criminal behavior, violence being inflicted on the user and lower life satisfaction. It sounds like a lot of pain and suffering. So, why encourage this?
In addition to these studies, we have a tabulation of the Impact of the Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado. Here are some highlights:
Since recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado;
- Traffic deaths in which drivers tested positve for marijuana increased 109%, while all traffic deaths increased 31%.
- This meant 115 people were killed by drivers with THC in their blood vs. 55 in 2013. Those who say Marijuana has never killed anyone, are intentionally mistaken.
- Past month marijuana use for ages 12 and older increased 58% and is 78% higher than the national average, currently ranked 4th in the nation. Those who say recreation Marijuana is only sold to adults intentionally ignore these facts. The kids can’t get it unless somewhere along the supply chain, an adult sells it to them or allows them to steal it.
- Marijuana tax revenues represent less than one percent of Colorado’s Fiscal year 2018 budget. Those who say taxing drug use will fill our coffers with sin tax money are grossly mistaken about the potential size of such revenues.
In addition to the tragic car accidents, and the hospital emergency admissions, there are other Cannabis casualties caused by crime. Here is an article posted on September 8, 2020 about seven people shot dead North of the Palomar Mountain.
The problem of Cannabis caused premature death is even worse in Humboldt County, part of the Emerald Triange, where authorities estimate that 60% of the pot consumed in the United States is grown.
“The homicide rate has historically been so high in the county that an Emerald Triangle TV show, Murder Mountain, debuted in 2018. Murder Mountain was a true-crime docuseries on Netflix that explored the darker side of the county's marijuana industry, notably the 2013 disappearance and homicide of local grower Garret Rodriguez.” (https://weedmaps.com/learn/the-plant/emerald-triangle#what-is-humboldt-county-famous-for )
Here is a quote from Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsai.
“When you compare our homicide rates, . . . we’re near the top of the list. That is troubling, especially in the county where we see most of the homicides. We still see homicides related to drugs and marijuana and it’s challenging and disturbing. These are the ones we know about, there are things we know that go on in our 4,000 square miles and there are homicides we’ll never know about.” Honsai said violent crime rates in the county remain too high and he attributes most of the violence to the drug culture, including marijuana, even though the state has legalized the cultivation and possession of cannabis. (https://www.times-standard.com/2018/12/29/homicide-cases-down-in-2018-officials-hope-trend-continues )
Here is a comparison of the premature deaths in Humboldt County compared with San Diego. (https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CDC20N2U006023)
The takeaway, is that we don’t want to follow the trend of those who embrace the drug culture, if we want to avoid the death from homicides, crime, car accidents, suicides and drug overdoses that come with it. Even consuming Cannabis in San Diego makes us partially responsible for the devastation caused from growing it in Humboldt County. There would be no supply, if there were no demand. There would be no dangerous Marijuana growing and cultivation industry in Humboldt, if consumers weren’t buying the product.
We should learn from the suffering in Humboldt and stop it from coming here. It only gets harder to say “no to drugs!” if we focus on the momentary pleasure and desensitize ourselves to the pain they inevitably leave in their wake. If we can’t say “no” now, how easy will it be when even more of us are addicted? Just look at Mexico to see a society in thrall to drug lords. You take your life into your own hands when visiting Mexico. The same danger exists in Humboldt County when driving down a dirt road. Do we want that insecurity here?
You would think that this overwhelming evidence from a large variety of sources would be fairly convincing. So, what arguments are the proponents of dispensaries and drug labs making?
1. First, they claim that Marijuana is now legal under State law.
Here is an excerpt that summarizes the truth about this statement: (https://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/federal-marijuana-laws.html )
Both the possession and distribution of marijuana are illegal under federal laws on marijuana, specifically, the Controlled Substances Act. Federal law makes it illegal to use, possess, grow and sell marijuana. There is no exception for the medical or so-called “recreational” use of marijuana in federal law. Possession of even a small amount of marijuana is a federal criminal offense. Simple possession with no intent to distribute is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000. Almost all states and some municipalities have passed laws legalizing the medical and/or recreational use of marijuana use in recent years. Even growing and distributing marijuana is now legal under state law in certain states. However, if there is a conflict between federal and state law, federal law always prevails.
2. Second, they state that since Federal law is not being enforced, we can safely disregard it and do what we believe is fashionable. Some have indicated that because others are embracing Marijuana, we should be on the leading edge of this trend.
This reminds me of what my parents used to say, “If everyone else is jumping off a cliff, would you do it also?” Promoting drug use is not a fashion statement. People don’t die in car accidents or drug overdoses because you wear the wrong tie. Marriages don’t’ fall apart from wearing the wrong shoes and belt. (Mine hasn’t yet.) They do fall apart under the stress of substance abuse problems. Cannabis use should have nothing to do with following the crowd and making a fashion statement.
Instead, Cannabis use is a moral statement. Humboldt County is suffering and dying from being on the bleeding edge of cannabis production. Poor fashion statements can be embarrassing but don’t end lives. Poor moral decisions ruin lives. As moral agents, we are witnesses to others whether we like it or not. We can make a strong moral statement and inspire others. Or, we can fail or falter or wobble.
Those who are spiritually weak will watch our actions and if we do the right thing, they will possibly emulate us. The hesitant may choose a better life and suffer a little less, and have a more productive future. On the other hand, If we abandon the moral high ground, those tempted by cannabis and other drugs will rationalize their own poor choices. “If our leaders don’t have the discipline to do the right thing, why should I?” will be their cry of capitulation. Isn’t it better to be a source of inspiration for those choosing to avoid cannabis, rather than catering to the stoner crowd? Shouldn’t we try to please the moral majority, rather than chasing the approval of the drug pushers?
3. They claim that marijuana is no worse than alcohol.
All of the statistics quoted earlier in the article document the increase in fatalities associated with cannabis legalization. Obviously, if deaths go up upon the legalization of recreational cannabis, then cannabis is the culprit for the increase in deaths. Logically, if the death count goes up with recreational cannabis legalization, then cannabis is worse than alcohol alone.
4. Marijuana labs will produce good high paying jobs.
Yes, there will be a corresponding higher need for ambulance workers, marriage counselors, and drug treatment center workers. Police officers will get more overtime. Divorce lawyers will make more money. Real estate agents will get to sell more distressed property with mortgage payments that can no longer be supported when one of the wage earners prefers to spend it on dope. The morgue and mortuary business will get a good bump in business with the increase in car accidents. Sign us up!
Right now, I find it very difficult to find anyone qualified who wants to join my commercial real estate business or my dog kennel business. Jobs are not hard to find. Quality workers are hard to find. Good quality laborers who show up on time, and don’t quit, and have decent job skills are at a premium. However, drug usage increases absenteeism. Cannabis use increases the likelihood of dropping out of school and therefore, acquiring fewer job skills. Marijuana increases productivity losses due to health problems, and accidents at work. If we cared about our employers in Santee, we would care about their worker’s welfare, productivity and health rather than chasing morally compromised jobs that enable poor choices.
4. Cannabis is bad and we shouldn’t have it in our city. However, if we must have it, we should regulate it and keep it 1000 feet away from our schools.
This argument is a lot like saying to your wife, “Please don’t cheat on me. Please remember our wedding vows. Please be faithful. . . But, if you do choose to cheat, try and be discreet.” Where is the moral high ground in that statement? It is abandoned, and on fire!
Those who want to regulate legal dispensaries, so that they can be “safer”, are already abandoning the moral high ground. Once it is sacrificed, the consumer sees little difference between supporting a city “legal” dispensary or a city “illegal” dispensary. For example, opioid’s are Federally and State legal in this country. But, last year over 87,000 opioid overdoses occurred. The takeaway: once the government puts the stamp of approval on an activity like drug sales, there is no stigma to deter the use and abuse of it. Drug sales, and the addiction associated with them, proliferate.
5. If we don’t pass a friendly version of cannabis legalization, then some citizen initiative will be forced on us and the law could be even worse.
Giving up the fight, before it is even begun is a prescription for defeat. Given the level of support for keeping Santee cannabis free, I think we would win in a citywide referendum over this issue. To assure this outcome, we need to hold the line and bring reinforcements to the contest. We need to keep the moral high ground and bring more voters to our hill.
The defeatist mentality will prove correct if the moral majority chooses to stay home and ignore these city workshops. Edmund Burke was credited with the statement, “All that is necessary for evil to win, is for good people . . . to do nothing.” Updated to today’s scenario, he would say, “All that is necessary for immorality to win, is for the moral majority . . . to stay home and watch TV.”
At our last cannabis workshop on August 11th, about 40 people showed up to unanimously advocate against cannabis dispensary legalization. Evidently, this wasn’t enough to convince the Santee city council that the moral majority could prevail against a potential citizen’s referendum. So, we need more support! More good people. More good speakers. More stories of personal tragedy associated with drivers under the influence. More sobering firsthand accounts of unemployed demotivated kids living in their parent’s garage, sacrificing their future as they smoke joints and play video games. More accounts of crime, drug addiction, broken marriages and fentanyl-laced drug overdoses.
Bring this article to your pastor or priest. Enlist the churches in fighting for our communities. It is easier to fight now against cannabis legalization, than to deal with the negative effects on our families, congregations and communities should we fail to act.
Another cannabis workshop is scheduled for October 13 at 6:30 p.m. at Santee City Hall at 10601 Magnolia Ave. To confirm this issue is still scheduled on the agenda, (See cannabisAgenda.pdf) the updated agenda will be posted on Friday, October 8, at the following website. https://www.cityofsanteeca.gov/government/departments/city-clerk/council-meeting-agendas-minutes/current-past-council-agendas-minutes.
Coming in person is far more effective. If you can’t make it in person, here are some emails for the City Councilmembers should you decide to register your opinion: Mayor John Minto, Jminto@cityofsanteeca.gov; Vice Mayor Rob McNelis, firstname.lastname@example.org; Laura Koval, email@example.com; Ronn Hall, firstname.lastname@example.org; Dustin Trotter, email@example.com
If you want to keep Santee cannabis free, then please come and show your support. If you love Santee the way that it is, please come and demonstrate that commitment. If you want to be a positive moral example for others, this is the opportunity to demonstrate it.
If you are on the other side of the issue, I hear “The Voice” on NBC is particularly good that night.
Erik Wiese is the President of Wiese & Associates, A Commercial Real Estate Broker.
The opinions in this reader’s editorial reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.