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Additional Funding for Marijuana Enforcement

| 11 Comments
Legalizing marijuana saves bushels of money because we no longer have to spend a dime on marijuana enforcement, right?  Um, not quite.  KCRA, Sacramento, reports:

The Sacramento City Council approved funding Tuesday night to enforce new marijuana laws set to take effect on Jan 1.

Sacramento police will get $850,000 for the first six months of 2018 in order to crack down on illegal marijuana grows in homes and neighborhoods.

That money would cover three sergeants, 12 officers and a city employee responsible for getting rid of the seized marijuana and cultivation equipment.

11 Comments

Do you think this is a sound and sensible use of taxpayer funds, Kent?

Not sure what point you are trying to make, but I would appreciate it if you would just state it.

My sincere question, Kent, is whether you lthink it a good use of limited local resources for police to be worried about and cracking down on illegal home grows of marijuana in a state that has legalized commercial grows and sales.

I am sure the coming commercial industry will be glad the police will be going after potential black market competitors, but absent clear links to other criminal activity, I would not think this is an idea use of police resources. But you surely know more about Sacramento crime and policing as a local, and I really wonder if you think the Scramento police could make better use of these funds.

I was not trying to be snide at all, but rather was interested in your views on whether local police should be quite concerned about home marijuana grows once the state has passed legalization.

I hope one is not so naive to think that home growers only grow for personal use and don't indiscriminately sell their product on the black market. It would be in great demand with lawful taxes ranging up to 40%

And yes, as in any black market for drugs,the clear links to criminal activity will abound.

Your inference suggests that authorities should eventually look the other way when MJ is smoked in a public park: on the street:in a multi-residential building: etc. etc.


I am not advocating, mjs, that authorities look the other way when they come across violations of marijuana regulations or other regulations like the traffic law or business safety rules. But though I would not want my local police ignoring speeding violations, I also would not want an extra $850,000 of limited tax dollars spent on new speed traps, even if those speed traps might catch the occasional serious criminal speeding away from a serious crime. I say that because I think the $850,000 might be better used on hiring new officers dedicated to, for example, increasing the homicide clearance rate or more "hot spot" policing in areas with a lot of shootings, robberies and assaults.

I have seen reports that violent crime is up in Sacramento (and other California cities), and I am just genuinely interested in Kent's perspective on whether spending nearly $1 million for the first six months of 2018 on marijuana enforcement is a sound allocation of limited resources.

Douglas stated: "I am sure the coming commercial industry will be glad the police will be going after potential black market competitors,..."

I would swear that you were one of the many who told us there would be no black market in our pot utopias because one could get it legally.

I brought up that people would still grow it to get around taxes and your response was, "Blah, blah, blah, alcohol prohibition."

You were also the one who continuously brought up the windfall of new tax revenue that was going to come with legalization.

Now, with supreme gall and a straight face, you want to pretend that you had no idea that 1) People would still grow it illegally; and 2) The government was going to chase lost potential tax revenue.

In other words, we are right back where we started when you pushed for legalization. 1) There are still black markets. 2) People are still growing and selling it illegally. 3) There is still unsafe product (instead of growing quality pot, black marketers lace weak pot with chemicals).

None of the supposed benefits with all of the downside of increased pot usage.

Was it dishonesty or incredible naivete?

I would not venture an opinion on whether this is a wise allocation of resources without getting further into the weeds (please pardon the pun) of the budget than I have time or inclination to do.

Tarls, I am fairly confident that if we get a mature legal marijuana market with full legalization comparable to alcohol (and allow home grows like we allow home beer brewing) there would eventually not be black markets in marijuana much larger than we see now with alcohol. But I could be wrong about that, as some vices (e.g., gambling) have large black markets even after broad legalization. But the alcohol/marijuana parallels always seem sound to me until evidence reveals otherwise.

Moreover, and more to the point of this posting, I would question greatly if a local police force devoted huge resources to going after, say, illegal alcohol usage at a California college where surely lots of underage people drink and engage in alcohol black market activities. The question is how much could and should usefully be spent going after certain types of black market actors with a legalization/regulation universe.

If you tell me, Talrs, that the point of police here is to make sure people pay their required marijuana taxes, then I would ask whether it is the most sound and effective way to go after lost revenue. And I might need to ask a tax expert rather than a criminal law expert. But do we really expect the Sacramento police to be focused on tax payments?

That said, I agree with you 100% that major black market activities can greatly diminish the benefits of legalization and effective regulation, and that is why I am not categorically against effective regulation and its effective enforcement. All I was trying to assess is whether persons with expertise in California crime --- like Kent --- think a local police investment of $800,000 amounts to effective enforcement or if they could suggest a better allocation of resources now that state voters have enacted a legalization regime.

I am not being dishonest or naive, but rather asking a sincere and genuine follow-up question to an expert who has now indicated he lacks the time or inclination to opine on. I would welcome your perspective on the question, Tarls.

Douglas stated: "Tarls, I am fairly confident that if we get a mature legal marijuana market with full legalization comparable to alcohol (and allow home grows like we allow home beer brewing) there would eventually not be black markets in marijuana much larger than we see now with alcohol."

Of course, you are wrong. Alcohol does not suffer from the excessive taxation that YOU advocated for with the marijuana regime. High taxes=more cost=users trying to get around those costs and sellers trying to soak up that money otherwise going to the government. You caused these resources to be spent. Don't cry, "Who knew that would happen?" when we all knew that the government was not going to leave tax money on the table. Wasn't Eric Garner choked out on a sting for selling untaxed cigarettes?

You stated: "But I could be wrong about that, as some vices (e.g., gambling) have large black markets even after broad legalization.""

Yeah, NOW you tell us that you "could be wrong." I remember a cocksure attitude prior to this. And gambling has a large black market, why? Mainly because people do not want to pay taxes. See a trend?

You stated: " But the alcohol/marijuana parallels always seem sound to me until evidence reveals otherwise."

Booze is also more difficult to make. Making a batch of home brew beer at scale to sell takes much more time and resources to be profitable. You can make a ton of pot in a very small area with little effort.

You stated: "Moreover, and more to the point of this posting, I would question greatly if a local police force devoted huge resources to going after, say, illegal alcohol usage at a California college where surely lots of underage people drink and engage in alcohol black market activities."

A poor analogy. A better one would be a brewery opening up making 10,000 gallons of beer a month, with no health inspections, and selling direct to customer without collecting or paying taxes to the government. I suspect that you would expect the government to take notice.

You stated: "If you tell me, Talrs, that the point of police here is to make sure people pay their required marijuana taxes, then I would ask whether it is the most sound and effective way to go after lost revenue. And I might need to ask a tax expert rather than a criminal law expert. But do we really expect the Sacramento police to be focused on tax payments?"

Irrelevant. There may be other ways. There may be better ways. But, know, the government IS going to go after uncollected tax revenue. Complaining about that now is like complaining about the rain. Even worse than that, you made it rain after everyone warned you that you were going to make it rain.

You stated: "That said, I agree with you 100% that major black market activities can greatly diminish the benefits of legalization and effective regulation, and that is why I am not categorically against effective regulation and its effective enforcement."

Which undercuts the argument you have been making for as long as I have known you, that legalization would wipe out the black markets and the criminal enterprises behind them.

Regulation creates black markets. That has been your argument.

You stated: "All I was trying to assess is whether persons with expertise in California crime --- like Kent --- think a local police investment of $800,000 amounts to effective enforcement or if they could suggest a better allocation of resources now that state voters have enacted a legalization regime."

I am always for a "better" way of doing things. The problem is that you (and other legalization advocates) have been saying for years that this would not be necessary. The black markets would go the way of the dodo bird and there would be nothing but sunny skies and free tax revenue.

You stated: "I am not being dishonest or naive, but rather asking a sincere and genuine follow-up question to an expert who has now indicated he lacks the time or inclination to opine on. I would welcome your perspective on the question, Tarls."

Honestly, I have no idea if there is a better way to collect this tax revenue. I doubt it. Once they sell the pot, how do you collect? It gets reinvested in other illegal activities like hookers, harder drugs, guns, etc. The only way is to catch them selling it. Hence, the pot task force you said would not be needed.

Tarls, I think we agree on more here than we disagree on, especially since I also am "always for a 'better' way of doing things." Right now, I perceive there being ways of doing things better than blanket marijuana prohibition, and I am pleased states nationwide are busy experimenting with lots of different models. That is why I am so eager to hear lots of different perspectives on how these diverse reform models are being implemented, in large part because I am truly not sure which ones may prove over time to be "better."

For starters, I want to make sure you know that I share your justified concern that some proponents of marijuana reform are way too eager to claim a utopia will necessarily follow the completing ending of marijuana prohibition. Gosh knows a utopia has not followed the ending of alcohol prohibition or gambling prohibition or gun prohibitions in some cities. But I do think that the ending of blanket prohibitions, generally speaking, helps make America "better." But this view is influenced by my own baseline belief that a society is "better" when its people have more freedoms, including the freedom to do unhealthy/risky things like gamble, drink, smoke, eat fatty foods, hunt, play football, etc. I am not sure if that is what you mean about my having a "cocksure attitude." I am sure in a general preference for more freedom over less freedom, and I am sure I have seen little obvious good come from blanket federal marijuana prohibition. But I am not sure at all about what are the best or even indisputably better state/local legal structures for marijuana reform/regulation.

On the particulars, I agree 100% that higher taxes will increase the size of a black market looking to dodge those taxes. This is why figuring out a "better" tax/regulatory structure for marijuana (and alcohol and cigarettes) is an ongoing/dynamic challenge and one that merits study/analysis and debate. Which is why I keep asking for the views of Kent and others, and why this kind of policy discourse is so valuable and important. And, critically, I want folks opposed to and concerned about marijuana reform involved in this discourse, not just the folks who believe more weed means cure every disease.

I surmise from your comments here you would fully support local police cracking down on "neighborhood grows" that are comparable to a brew pushing out 10,000 gallons of beer a month. I likely would, too, and here is a good recent example of that kind of seemingly needed crack-down (involving 27,000 marijuana plants): https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/california/articles/2017-08-03/california-authorities-seize-27-000-pot-plants-in-4-day-raid

But a police crack-down on "home grows" can also mean something very different, as highlighted by this recent article from Colorado reporting on a Bronze Star veteran subject to a SWAT raid for (legally?) growing just 18 plants: http://www.denverpost.com/2017/08/17/fountain-swat-sued-pot-grow-raid/


Our discussion here, Tarls, has helped me better understand that perhaps the right question is whether Sacramento is likely to have many pot equivalents of black-market commercial breweries or the pot equivalent of black-market basement brews. If the former, than lots of funding for police crack-downs seems more justified; if the later, then I think police funding could/should be better spent elsewhere.

As we both know, Tarls, one can never eliminate all black or gray markets that dodge taxes/regulations in all sorts of ways --- e.g., I do not think I paid sales tax at the last bake sale I was at, and I know I did not get a label with a calorie count. For that reason and others, I think it foolish for anyone to claim black markets in marijuana will entirely disappear even if we get nationwide legalization. But there is considerable reason to think that, as marijuana markets mature and taxes are adjusted, black markets will continue to shrink and to the benefit of law-abiding citizens. Perhaps a big police-crack down at the start of legalization in a region like Sacramento will help jump-start shrinking the black market. But I genuinely do not know, ergo my inquiry/engagement here.

I did not mean this thread to be another debate over marijuana reform, though I always find your perspectives valuable on this front and others. The discrete issue that Kent's post got me thinking about, and that you have now helped tease out is whether a (major?) police investment in the first 1/2 of 2018 to go after home/neighborhood grows is a sound and sensible allocation of resources in Sacramento. I surmise you think it is, and perhaps Kent will at some late point have time/interest to share his take, too.

Prof. Berman: "but absent clear links to other criminal activity"

When one searches the swamp, one finds an abundance of pathogenic parasites
and bacteria.

(Probability of growth is high in fertile ground.)

Potentially a good use of resources.

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