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Inland cities consider regulating marijuana dispensaries

With the certainty of a politically viable marijuana legalization measure on the November ballot, Inland cities are increasingly finding themselves in a position where it is no longer feasible to continue ignoring the issue. In recent months, there have been indications that a number of cities are contemplating regulation, including Banning and San Bernardino, while voters in Perris and Upland are set to vote on the matter in November.

Marijuana use, for medicinal and recreational purposes, has persisted despite the best efforts of local, state and federal drug control policies. If anything has been accomplished by decades of prohibition, it is the enrichment of the black market. Recognizing this, a handful of Inland cities have had the foresight to set aside any moral qualms about marijuana use and have developed reasonable regulations with respect to dispensaries and even cultivation.

In 2008, Palm Springs led the way by establishing rules for medical marijuana dispensaries, and in 2013 approved lucrative taxes on those dispensaries. In recent years, cities like Adelanto, Cathedral City and Desert Hot Springs have followed suit and have a gone a step further in developing regulations for large-scale medical marijuana cultivation.

To date, there has been no evidence that such moves have undermined the public safety, health and well-being of people living in those communities. Palm Springs has seen steep declines in illegal dispensaries, revenues in excess of one million dollars and has yet to see any of the fears of prohibitionists come to reality.

The city of San Bernardino’s legislative review committee has held discussions on the possibility of lifting the city’s ban, while the California Cannabis Coalition has submitted signatures in the city for a potential November ballot measure authorizing dispensaries. Considering the amount of money the city has spent chasing down dispensaries, it certainly makes sense to consider bringing the market above ground and generating some revenues from it.

Meanwhile, the Perris City Council voted recently to place measures on the ballot giving voters the choice to tax and regulate marijuana dispensaries in the city. An initiative is also on the ballot in Upland, after much legal wrangling with the Cannabis Coalition. The Banning City council has publicly discussed the possibility of regulating marijuana cultivation for the sake of revenue generation, and is studying the issue.

We hope more cities at least revisit their marijuana policies. Doing so effectively means setting aside any moral judgments about the issue and carefully weighing the pros and cons of prohibition and regulation.

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