In California, medical and recreational cannabis legalization has helped patients and potheads alike get their fix without fear of prosecution or having to depend on the black market. In addition to easier access for users, struggling municipalities in the Golden State have used the local green rush to tip municipal budgets back to the black.In fact, the integration of the marijuana industry has already helped save a number of small California towns from the burden of debt.
In Calaveras County, CA a region once known for mining and timber but now home to 45,000 people facing tough economic times, cannabis has been a godsend, with legal weed license fees already alleviating a serious chunk of the county’s deficit.
So far Calaveras County has collected $3.7 million in fees from marijuana growers, and has already started spending this revenue on additional police and other local services. In 2016, 737 local cannabis producers paid a $5,000 fee to apply for a commercial cultivation licensing. Thus far, 89 applicants have been approved, 137 denied, and 478 still under consideration.
However, not all residents are supportive of the cannabis influx in their county, and a new anti-cannabis push could cause some major problems for everyone involved. According to Sacramento Bee, the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors is now considering a ban on all commercial marijuana farms. County officials have complained that the cannabis industry is bringing unwanted outsiders and black market growers to the area, in addition to contributing to environmental degradation.
The problem is, the county has already started spending the money expected from cannabis cultivation, and the proposed ban means the county would also be turning their back on $14 million in expected tax revenue. Newly elected supervisor Clyde Clapp has taken a harsh anti-marijuana stance, stating that the influx of growers is creating “a cultural clash” within the region.
If the ban is approved, cannabis farmers would be forced to clear their properties in 90 days. Of course, this motion has been heavily protested by cultivators, many of whom claim that they’re saving the area from bankruptcy. If the ordinance is approved, the county may be forced to return licensing fees to the applicants, which could lead the Calaveras County towards even more economic hardship.
While residents have complained that pot plants have taken over the region, a local economic study conducted by the University of Pacific’s Center for Business & Policy Research valued the Calaveras County’s cannabis industry at $251.5 million and estimated that legal weed would produce around 2,600 local jobs. Unfortunately, when it comes to marijuana, the Board of Supervisors seems to be stuck in the past, a stance that could keep the region stuck in an era of financial turmoil for years to come.