Palo Alto Mulls Medical Marijuana, With Conservative Backing

Categories: Marijuana
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Palo Alto's Turn
It's a fine town, but Palo Alto is a bit one-dimensional. There's nearby Stanford, and nearby Silicon Valley (fine, that's two dimensions), but not much else is happening in that Peninsula city.

But what about medical marijuana? The city could become the first San Mateo County municipality to allow medical cannabis dispensaries, if voters approve a ballot measure Nov. 6.

The city's elected officials agree: They all hate Measure C, despite the permit fees and local taxes voter-approved medical marijuana clubs would bring in. Yet the idea of allowing legal cannabis within "Shallow Alto" city limits does have backers within the free-market, usually conservative Hoover Institution.

Currently, no cities on the Peninsula allow medical marijuana dispensaries. Dispensaries have tried to open up in Pacifica, in Redwood City, and elsewhere, and have been quickly shut down by the cops or city officials.

If approved, Measure C would allow three dispensaries to open up in Palo Alto. They would pay $10,000 in city permit fees each, and a 4 percent local sales tax, on top of the 7 percent paid to the state.

One might think tax revenue would be music to a city's ears. Yet not so.

At a recent forum organized by the Peninsula Press, Palo Alto vice-mayor Greg Scharff stated that "the city's elected officials are united in their opposition to Measure C." The reason? "77 complaints related to dispensaries in San Jose," the newspaper reported.

Scharff thinks Measure C will fail, 65 percent to 35 percent. Quite the prediction, considering a marijuana legalization measure, 2010's Proposition 19, failed by less than 10 percent statewide.

Thomas Moore sees things different. Moore, a Hoover Institution senior fellow, pointed out that no science or data links dispensaries to crime.

It's not surprising that a free-market academic would find no issue with allowing a state-legal business within city limits. Moore went a step further, pointing out that Prohibition -- the new branding of the Drug War for cannabis supporters -- has led to violence and has not stalled drug use since marijuana became illegal in 1970.

Still, marijuana does make people do funny things, like make a city official scoff at tax revenue. Scharff called the cash the dispensaries could bring in as "completely irrelevant" to the city budget. Remember that the next time you're called to pay a parking ticket.
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