Tag Archives: unintended consequences

No surprise: After legalization, illegal pot sales boom in California

As reported by Thomas Fuller for the NY Times (via SF Gate): In the forests of Northern California, raids by law enforcement officials continue to uncover illicit marijuana farms. In Southern California, hundreds of illegal delivery services and pot dispensaries, some of them registered as churches, serve a steady stream of customers. And in Mendocino County, north of San Francisco, the sheriff’s office recently raided an illegal cannabis production facility that was processing 500 pounds of marijuana a day.

It’s been a little more than a year since California legalized marijuana — the largest such experiment in the United States — but law enforcement officials say the unlicensed, illegal market is still thriving and in some areas has even expanded. “There’s a lot of money to be made in the black market,” said Mendocino County Sheriff Thomas Allman, whose deputies seized cannabis oil worth more than $5 million in early April.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared that illegal grows in Northern California “are getting worse, not better” and two months ago redeployed a contingent of National Guard troops stationed on the border with Mexico to go after illegal cannabis farms instead.

Stepped-up enforcement comes with a certain measure of irony — legalization was meant to open a new chapter for the state, free from the legacy of heavy policing and incarceration for minor infractions. Instead, there are new calls for a crackdown on illegal selling.

Conscious of the consequences that the war on drugs had on black and Latino communities, cities like Los Angeles say they are wary of using criminal enforcement measures to police the illegal market and are unsure how to navigate this uncharted era.

The struggles of the licensed pot market in California are distinct from the experience of other states that have legalized cannabis in recent years. Sales in Colorado, Oregon and Washington grew well above 50 percent for each of the first three years of legalization, although Oregon now also has a large glut of pot.

But no other state has an illegal market on the scale of California’s, and those illicit sales are cannibalizing the revenue of licensed businesses and, in some cases, experts say, forcing them out of business.

Entrepreneurs in the industry, which spent decades evading the law, are now turning to the law to demand the prosecution of unlicensed pot businesses. “We are the taxpayers — no one else should be operating,” said Robert Taft, whose licensed cannabis business in Orange County, south of Los Angeles, has seen sales drop in recent months.

“This is starting to get ridiculous,” he said of the illegal pot shops, including nearby businesses that list themselves as churches and advertise marijuana as a kind of sacrament. “It’s almost like the state is setting itself up to lose.”

California gives cities wide latitude to regulate cannabis, resulting in a confusing patchwork of regulations. Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose and San Diego have laws allowing cannabis businesses, but most smaller cities and towns in the state do not — 80% of California’s nearly 500 municipalities do not allow retail marijuana businesses. The ballot measure legalizing recreational marijuana passed in 2016 with 57% approval, but that relatively broad support has not translated to the local level. Cities like Compton or Laguna Beach decisively rejected allowing pot shops.

Regulators cite this tepid embrace by California municipalities as one of many reasons for the state’s persistent and pervasive illegal market. Only 620 cannabis shops have been licensed in California so far. Colorado, with a population one-sixth the size of California, has 562 licensed recreational marijuana stores.

But the more fundamental reason for the strength of the black market in California — and what sets the state apart from others — is the huge surplus of pot. Since medical marijuana was made legal in California more than two decades ago, the cannabis industry flourished with minimal oversight. Now many cannabis businesses are reluctant to go through the cumbersome and costly process to obtain the licenses that became mandatory last year.

Of the roughly 14 million pounds of marijuana grown in California annually, only a fraction — less than 20% according to state estimates and a private research firm — is consumed in California. The rest seeps out across the country illicitly, through the mail, express delivery services, private vehicles and small aircraft that ply trafficking routes that have existed for decades.

This illicit trade has been strengthened by the increasing popularity of vaping, cannabis-infused candies, tinctures and other derivative products. Vape cartridges are much easier to carry and conceal than bags of raw cannabis. And the monetary incentives of trafficking also remain powerful: The price of cannabis products in places like Illinois, New York or Connecticut are typically many times higher than in California.

The state’s illicit cannabis exports appear to be increasing even now, well into California’s second year of legalization. New Frontier Data, a data research company that specializes in cannabis, calculates that high demand and more advanced growing techniques will contribute to approximately half a million pounds more illicit cannabis this year compared with 2018.

The federal government still considers marijuana illegal, and the Drug Enforcement Administration says it still investigates marijuana-related crimes. But a spokesman, Rusty Payne, said the agency has a bigger crisis to attend to.

“We’ve got our hands full with the opioid epidemic to be honest,” Payne said. In wildland areas, seizures of illicit pot by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife more than doubled in 2018, the first year that recreational cannabis was legal.

The department destroyed 1.6 million marijuana plants in 2018, up from 700,000 in 2017 and 800,000 the year before — all of them illegally grown.

“There’s a subset of people who are just refusing to get into the process,” said Nathaniel Arnold, the department’s deputy chief of enforcement.

Read the whole story here.

DCG

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It pays well to be a public servant: Portland employees’ salaries frozen because they are higher than justified

In 2018 the city of Portland had more than 9,300 employees. Projections for 2019 go up to over 10,000 employees. As of 2017, Portland had an estimated population of 647,805.

Compare this to other cities:

Seattle: Nearly 10,000 employees with a population of 730,000.
San Francisco: 39,634 employees in 2016 with 884,363 residents as of 2017.
San Diego: As of 2016 they had 11,387 employees with a population of just over 1.4 million.
Fort Worth: 6,195 employees with a population of 874,168.

Whether cities are demorat- or republican-run, there’s always a great paying job in public service…

From Oregon Live: More than 1,200 city of Portland employees have had their pay frozen because their salaries are higher than what human resources officials determined are “justified.”

Among them are more than a dozen bureau directors, including the city’s human resources director and Police Chief Danielle Outlaw.

Affected employees were notified by email Thursday. Many of them said they are confused, upset or both.

“We’re hearing frustration and disappointment with how information is being rolled out,” said Sonia Schmanski, chief of staff for Commissioner Nick Fish. “People are getting emails they don’t understand, and they have both concerns and questions.”

The pay freeze for roughly 70 percent of the city’s non-unionized workers – meaning they’ll get no merit or cost-of-living raises until further notice – is one of the first consequences of a new state law mandating greater pay equity.

The gist of the law, which took effect January 1, is that employees with similar backgrounds who do similar work have to be paid equally or they can recover outsized legal damages. The law is intended to protect women, minorities and other groups that have historically been found to get smaller salaries than others doing similar jobs.

To fix any inequities, employers may only raise the pay of workers found to be underpaid, not dole out pay cuts to those on the high side.

As a result, the city notified more than 500 employees Thursday that they will receive a raise. The increases in hourly pay ranged from as little as 1 cent to $16.32.

The city also froze the pay of about 850 workers at the level they were paid in 2018.

And, for about 350 workers, it did both. They got a raise — and at the same time were notified they had been pushed above the “justified” pay range, meaning a raise and pay freeze all at once.

The messages caused outrage among managers citywide and anxiety in the ranks, according to several city employees who witnessed bosses and coworkers fretting over the notices.

Officials never intended to imply that people are overpaid, said Serilda Summers-McGee, director of the Bureau of Human Resources. (Summers-McGee was one of the bureau directors whose pay was deemed above what is justified and subsequently frozen.) “That is the way that some folks are interpreting that language,” she said, “and it is something that the city of Portland is going to have to remedy in communications moving forward.”

High-ranking managers called out as being paid more than is justified include the city’s deputy chief administrative officer, the city economist, the spokespeople for numerous city bureaus and two of the assistant police chiefs, among many others.

Human resources officials will meet with the City Council on Tuesday to discuss the pay equity law, Summers-McGee said. It’s unclear what actions, if any, the council may be considering. It’s also an open question how the pay equity law will affect the city budget, said Jessica Kinard, interim City Budget Office director.

DCG

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Gubbermint Stoopidity of the Worst Kind


This is unbelievable.
Then again, maybe not.
Via naplesnews.com (highlights are mine):
Jeff Lytle: It’s an emergency — but you can’t tell anyone?
Staff Reports
Sunday, November 6, 2011
This is a column that could write itself.
Yet there are so many different ways it could start.
I could say “If you are looking for a law that fights rather then furthers the public interest, this is it.”
Or “Suppose you’re having lunch at a restaurant and you have a heart attack.”
Or “Thank goodness public servants in medicine and politics are trying to right a wrong.”
Here’s the deal.
Former NCH Healthcare System CEO Ed Morton brought up something that I could not comprehend at an emergency health care forum the other day. He said Florida privacy laws are so convoluted that they can block a cardiac patient’s access to a potentially lifesaving automatic external defibrillator (AED) nearby.
Surely I misunderstood his comment about 911 dispatchers not being allowed to alert third parties such as an office or dining room with AEDs to an emergency in their midst.
Morton pointed me toward Florida Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, who confirmed what he said and walked me through a legal thicket that has vexed lawmakers for five or six years.
It goes like this: 911 operators can tell callers — usually not heart patients themselves — whether they can find an AED nearby, but the 911 operators are not allowed to call people and places with AEDs for fear of disclosing your medical information to a stranger.

Now, chances are you would want that information out there.
And, chances are the person making the 911 call about you would prefer to stay by your side rather than race off to grab the AED with the electrified chest paddles.
So, heart patients are left to wait for the ambulance to arrive. It’s OK for those people to know about your health because they, like law enforcement agencies, are official first-responders.
Passidomo says she learned of the problem from Kate Kerwin, fitness director at Quail Creek Country Club, who said “This is very disturbing.”
“We purchased six AED units over 10 years ago to respond to an emergency. If the emergency occurs in one of our buildings we are able to respond quickly because the staff has initiated the call to 911. If, however, the emergency happens on one of our golf courses, the member of the golf foursome has probably called into 911. The staff may not even be aware that an emergency exists. The response time of EMS is quick, but getting them out onto the golf course takes time and that is where the staff can get there faster — taking the AED to the victim with a golf cart.
“We are talking safety issues which don’t only relate to Collier County but to the entire state.
“What can you do help make this right?”
Mr. Emergency Medicine in the county, Dr. Robert Tober, says it’s all too true.
“As a result, for example, an emergency medical department cannot call the front guard office at a condominium and notify them of a cardiac arrest on the fifth floor,” he says, even if the condo has voluntarily registered with a statewide AED informational network. 
You will find the rest of the article here.
I guess the lesson to be learned here is, if you have a heart condition, you might just want to stay off golf courses in Florida.
Like I said – unbelievable.
-Dave
(h/t: boortz.com)

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