Chronic City: Marijuana, Money, and the Media

Compassion Family Ministries
Yes, Grasshopper... Money grows on killa trees.
Things are smoking on the Marijuana front, and I'm not just talking about the ringing cash registers at newly emboldened dispensaries statewide. Time after time this week, the media brought together money and Marijuana in public perception.

From Fox's attempted debunking of the tax benefits of State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano's statewide regulation and taxation bill, to a huge bust in Fresno County, to Oakland's first-in-the-nation Marijuana tax (reported in this space), just about every Marijuana story (pro- and anti-) reported this week had big dollar signs all over it.

• Fox News attempts hatchet job on pot revenue story: Fox News today published a story by Joseph Abrams which attempts to pooh-pooh last week's report from the state tax board which indicated that the legalization and taxation of pot would add $1.4 billion per year to state coffers.

In typical Foxed-up fashion, the story indulges in good old faux-journalistic traditions like guilt by association, saying the Board of Equalization's estimate "appears to be based on hazy 'studies' conducted by Marijuana advocates."

Well, then, that's different! If "those people" had anything to do with the study, it must automatically be invalid. I mean, if you want to know about Marijuana, why on earth would you want to go to a bunch of god-damned scuzzy pot smokers, anyway? Hey, wait a minute...

In any event, Fox's "debunking" of the $1.4 billion number basically consists of (correctly) pointing out that the number is the product of a lot of estimation and sheer guesswork, and (dubiously) suggesting that the number should be only half that, $700 million. We are given to believe that Fox News must know a lot more about Marijuana precisely because they don't smoke it, or apparently even know many people who do.

The original $1.4 billion estimate hinges on Californians smoking 16 million ounces a year, but Fox seems to have divined that the state's stoners only dust 8 million ounces worth of bowls a year, based on... yeah, that's right: Their own Foxy guesstimates.

One might question the accuracy of Fox's "corrected" number, since it depends on an estimate of just over an ounce or month smoked by each "daily Marijuana user," as opposed to the two-ounce-per-month estimate used in the state study.

I don't know who Fox parties with, but the folks I know smoke more than an ounce a month.

• Fresno County's billion-dollar bust: "$1 billion in Marijuana seized in California," the headline blared this morning. But was it, really?

"Operation Save Our Sierra" (nice job on the dramatic name) began July 13, involving local, state and federal agencies working together to stop Marijuana growing in Fresno County. New U.S. Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske pronounced Fresno a "high intensity drug trafficking area" and talked about "local authorities' work to reclaim the land."

Unfortunately, Kerlikowske kept talking after he should have stopped. "Marijuana is dangerous and has no medicinal benefit," he added idiotically, in a sad attempt to win back the drug warriors that were horrified by the Obama administration's promise to stop medical Marijuana raids in states where medicinal pot is legal.

According to the story, the 82 suspects arrested so far "have links to Mexican drug cartels" (what, exactly, does that mean? Hispanic surnames?), though they didn't release further details.

In the operation, the largest in Fresno County history, at least 330,000 plants have been seized in the mountainous and sparsely populated eastern part of the county. Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims is throwing around the figure of $4,000 per plant (way to catch the interest of thousands more potential pot farmers, Margaret!)

• Oakland passes first municipal pot tax in the nationMeasure F, which makes Oakland the first city in the nation to impose a special tax on sales of medical Marijuana, passed overwhelmingly with more than 80 percent of the vote on Tuesday.

Dispensaries, which had already been paying a tax rate of $1.20 per $1,000 of gross receipts, will now be taxed at a rate of $18 per $1,000 of sales.

Oakland officials estimate initial revenues from the new tax, which kicks in next year, will net the city around $300,000 per year.


It's an inescapable message, even for prohibitionists: Marijuana equals money.

The only choice (given the futility of the seven-decade war on pot) seems to be where we want that money to go. Is it going to go to "drug cartels," or will it go to legitimate businesses and state government?

Stay tuned.

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