Jeff Jardine

Pot sales planning put off until voters weigh in on Prop. 64 Tuesday

Are you ready for some legal ganja?

The bigger question locally, should Proposition 64 pass next week legalizing recreational marijuana, involves the readiness of Stanislaus County and local city officials to deal with regulating the pot industry.

They would have until Jan. 1, 2018, to come up with a plan that likely would be a dramatic departure from the no-on-all-fronts stance the Board of Supervisors adopted toward all pot sales – even for medicinal purposes – 11 months ago. That is when the law would go into effect. One of the proposition’s key elements is that local governments, not the state, have final say over whether they allow marijuana stores and dispensaries in their jurisdictions.

There have been some discussions since an emotional meeting in which the parents of sick children pleaded for the supervisors to allow the medicinal sales locally, Stanislaus County Assistant CEO Keith Boggs said. The parents asked the county to amend its ordinance to permit medical marijuana dispensaries so that they don’t have to travel to other counties to buy the marijuana products that ease their kids’ pain. The group submitted their proposed changes to the existing ordinance. Assistant County Counsel Tom Boze reviewed them and countered with the county’s proposal.

County officials also met with officials from the nine cities about possible sale operations for recreational purposes, licensing, discussing potential taxing plans, which cities would want pot stores, possible revenue sharing and more. How much tax revenue would sales generate here annually? While Stanislaus County has its share of pot grows, it likely doesn’t rank up there with Humboldt, Siskiyou and Mendocino counties, where marijuana is a huge part of the local economies, legal or not.

“We actually asked the auditor/controller that question six or eight months ago,” Boggs said. “The response was, ‘I can lick my finger and put it in the wind.’ 

In other words, no clue whatsoever.

In both cases, they decided to put everything on hold until after the Nov. 8 election. If Proposition 64 passes, then they can begin working toward regulating recreational marijuana sales locally. That would also simplify the access for medicinal uses.

“We think that would all come together pretty quickly,” Boggs said.

If the pot proposition fails, the recreational element remains illegal and they can focus strictly on the medicinal side.

“So far,” county Supervisor Vito Chiesa said, “I’m not voting for it. It’s legal already (for medicinal use). Why make it any easier?”

They will know for certain after Tuesday’s election. Parts of other ordinances would need to be addressed should the recreation bid pass.

“It brings up a concern about places where people smoke tobacco,” Modesto Police Chief Galen Carroll said. “There are signs banning smoke and most ordinances say tobacco. They would need to be changed. I certainly don’t want to be sitting next to you when you’re smoking pot at a concert in the park.”

And, he points out, buried deep into the proposition’s 150-plus pages of details: That print, billboard, televisions and radio advertising will be permitted with some restrictions.

TV ads can only air where the vast majority of the audience is likely to be over 21 years old. Indeed, parents need to be assured their young children won’t be subjected to Mary’s Juana ads when they turn on the Nickelodeon channel for an hour’s worth of “SpongeBob SquarePants” or “Bubble Guppies.”

“They don’t allow advertising of tobacco and they’re going to allow marijuana ads?” Carroll said. “Folks don’t understand what big business this is.”

Regardless, his department will live with the outcome of Tuesday’s election.

“If the voters decide (recreational) marijuana to be legal, we’ll follow whatever the law is,” Carroll said.

And the regulators will go to work trying to make it drop some dollars into local tax coffers.