The Atascadero City Council, along with the Planning Commission hosted a joint meeting this week to discuss the future of legal marijuana in Atascadero. While nothing firm was 100 percent decided, the meeting provided the opportunity for those in attendance and those listening on the radio to get a feel for how city officials and local citizens are thinking about the issue.
The City is to be commended for actually giving residents a chance — and multiple chances actually — to speak their minds on the issue, but the direction they seem to be going, considering a ban, even if temporary, is not in line with the will of the majority of voters in the state or residents in the city.
While there were dissenting voices, a majority of those who spoke at the meeting Tuesday were supportive of commercial marijuana activites happening in the city. It is a good thing that the Council is being cautious as this industry is sure to develop quickly and if left unchecked could certainly cause some problems. But those problems can be overcome with some foresight and they are not a good enough reason to ignore the will of people.
In my mind, speaker Clark Baird made one of the best points at the meeting, pointing out how unfair it is to allow alcohol and pharmaceuticals to thrive in our community while attempting to shut cannabis out. There are substances out there that are clearly more harmful than marijuana that are being heavily commercialized. Targeting one substance over another more harmful substance is clearly hypocritical.
The bottom line is that people will be using cannabis one way or the other. Behavior can’t be legislated. So we have two choices: Continue to supress the commercialization of a product that clearly has a demand in our community and send all of the dollars spent on said product straight into the hands of criminals, or embrance legalization, implement reasonable regulations and reap the tax benefits. There’s clearly only one way forward.
Despite the claims of some speakers at Tuesday’s meeting, localities that have legalized and commercialized marijuana are bringing in the big bucks and Atascadero should be too. Then the money should be put right back into drug education and addiction prevention.
Until next time.