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Fresno as Marijuana haven? It’ll cost us – all of us.

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Fresno as Marijuana haven? It’ll cost us – all of us.

Legal weed dispensaries add crime, poor tax revenue, and pose a threat to Fresno’s kids, Garry Bredefeld writes.

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GarryBredefeld

On March 9, Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld will introduce a measure to ban recreational marijuana dispensaries in the City of Fresno. 

Proposition 64, also known as the Marijuana Legalization Initiative, not surprisingly passed statewide in November 2016 but wisely failed in Fresno County with 54% of the people voting against legalization.

Prop. 64 now allows individuals 21 years or older to legally smoke marijuana and to grow up to six plants in their home, even if they are next to elementary schools. What many people don’t know is that Prop. 64 also allows recreational marijuana dispensaries or businesses to be opened throughout the state unless a specific municipality officially prohibits or bans them.

If they are not banned, these dispensaries can begin opening up for business January 1, 2018. Additionally, Prop. 64 allows these dispensaries to advertise and promote marijuana on television though commercials promoting smoking have been banned for decades. Now, these dispensaries will be able to advertise on programs that millions of children and teens watch.

While I support medicinal marijuana for people who are truly ill, my focus is on banning these recreational dispensaries for recreational use. As a clinical psychologist and someone who has worked with many substance abusers and addicts for over 30 years, I know that without question, marijuana has numerous negative and profound effects on adolescents and young people who use it. In fairness, for many (though not all) marijuana can also be a gateway drug.

YOUTH AND MARIJUANA

Adolescents clearly go through many biological, development, and social changes as they grow. We know from numerous clinical studies that smoking marijuana affects their memory, ability to learn and focus, and can decrease neuropsychological functioning. Kids who are smoking marijuana also have poor school performance, higher rates of absenteeism, and increased mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. We also know that on-going usage of marijuana with any user can pose risks for immune system damage, birth defects, cardiovascular disease, stroke, respiratory problems and lung cancer.

The legalization of marijuana has sent the terrible message to young people that getting high is not a problem and is, in fact, sanctioned by the State. Since the legalization of marijuana in numerous states, the National Institute of Drug Abuse has found that marijuana use has climbed among 10th and 12 graders across the nation. Following Colorado’s legalization of marijuana, there’s been a rise in youth arrests, disciplinary problems in school, and numerous medical problems associated with its usage. By allowing these recreational dispensaries and the ease of acquiring this drug, we would be contributing to the destruction of so many young people in our city.

SEEKING DRUG REVENUE IS DESTRUCTIVE AND FAILED PUBLIC POLICY

Many in government who are for Prop 64 cite all the revenue it will generate. There are two specific taxes—a cultivation tax of $9.25 per ounce for flowers and $2.75 per ounce for leaves in addition to a 15 percent tax on the retail price of the marijuana. Local governments can also add additional taxes. While they cite revenue from these taxes would be used for “drug research, treatment, and enforcement,” it is clear that allowing these dispensaries to open would be terrible public policy and detrimental to our youth, community, and the entire region. Some foolishly believe that this revenue, “drug money” as I refer to it, would be beneficial to pay for municipal services. What they fail to understand is that by allowing these dispensaries and the promotion of marijuana usage only brings with it numerous added costs, burdens, and consequences that will offset any drug money revenues.

With the increase of marijuana usage, there will be increased drugged driving and fatal car accidents. You only need look at states that have approved legalization. In an official argument against Prop 64, “The AAA Foundation for Highway Safety reports that deaths in marijuana-related car crashes have doubled since the State of Washington approved legalization.” Despite this, there is no specific protocol for determining if a driver is impaired due to marijuana usage. There will clearly be need for greater law enforcement, which has major and significant costs. There will be increased need for medical care and drug treatment programs. There has been a rise in emergency room visits due to increased marijuana usage.

All too often, the rise in drug usage is seen in poorer neighborhoods. Another official argument against Prop 64 was that it was believed to be “an all-out assault on underprivileged neighborhoods already reeling from alcohol and drug addiction problems.” One of the official arguments against Prop 64 was made by Bishop Ron Allen of the International Faith Based Coalition which represents 5,000 inner-city churches. Bishop Allen called Proposition 64 an “attack on minorities” and asked “Why are there no limits on the number of pot shops that can be opened in poor neighborhoods? We will now have a string of pot shops to go with the two liquor stores on every block, but we still can’t get a grocery store. Proposition 64 will make every parent’s job tougher.”

The term “cash is king” accurately reflects the marijuana sales business. Federal law prohibits everyone, including banks, from dealing with controlled substances or the proceeds from them, which includes cash used to buy and sell marijuana. The sales from marijuana ultimately is a cash business and banks will not allow this “drug money” to be deposited. These dispensaries already have and will always be a prime target for robberies and increased criminal behavior which will further increase demands on law enforcement and make the neighborhoods unsafe where these dispensaries exist.

It has been demonstrated in other states with legalized marijuana that relying on marijuana revenues is bad public policy for local governments. In addition to the terrible consequences I’ve already outlined, what happens if a local government has increased municipal services, hired more police officers only later to have the federal government enforce federal law banning recreational sales and usage, which has been promised by the current administration? How are those services or police officers then paid for? They won’t be. We don’t want to rely on sales from a drug that is still illegal throughout the country and more than half of the population in Fresno County don’t approve of.

It’s obvious that no community or society is better off when large numbers of its people use drugs. When this occurs, employers and businesses will be adversely affected. There will be a real potential for employees being the under the influence of marijuana, and a significant decrease in productivity due to employee turnover, workplace injuries, absenteeism and illness. One only has to ask, why is that companies throughout the country have had the long-standing policy of testing their employees for drug use, often specifically for marijuana? The answer is clear and indisputable. Whether you drive a truck, work in a warehouse, are a roofer, work in construction, or are a doctor or nurse, if you’re under the influence of marijuana, your work will be adversely and negatively affected. Businesses know any employee under the influence of marijuana is a liability and poses a risk/hazard to performing their job effectively, efficiently, and safely.

WE MUST STOP THE SLIPPERY SLOPE AND FURTHER SOCIETAL DECLINE

If the Fresno City Council were to allow these recreational marijuana dispensaries to sprout up throughout our community, where does it end? One can reasonably ask, if marijuana is now legal and we can generate government money for that drug, why not legalize prostitution or cocaine and make a lot of money? One can be dismissive of this possibility but the fact is before Prop 64 passed last year, legalized marijuana had been on the ballot in California twice, in 1972 and 2010, and both failed. That did not stop the proponents from continuing their efforts to ultimately get marijuana legalized. The same could happen with any other illegal drug or prostitution.

The weakening of our drug laws that now allow marijuana to be used and sold recreationally in conjunction with the weakening of our criminal laws such as Prop 57, 47, and AB 109 have continued to make our communities unsafe. We have just seen a police officer killed in Whittier by a known gang member and multiple felon. Adding to this slippery slope of further societal decay is the legalizing of marijuana which we know will only cause tremendous damage to our youth, problems in our schools and workplaces, increased crime and traffic accidents/fatalities, and make our neighborhoods unsafe.

It’s time to stop the decline.

We need to stop these recreational marijuana dispensaries from invading our communities and we need to do it now! Fresno must be the leader in California and send the clear and healthy message—“Not in our city because we care about our kids, our communities, and our future!”

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Garry Bredefeld

Garry Bredefeld is a clinical psychologist and Fresno City Council member for District 6, representing northeast Fresno.

22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Dan Waterhouse

    February 27, 2017 at 10:44 am

    Bredefeld is losing his grip on reality. Not surprising. He’s been practicing voodoo science for decades.

    • Bob Whiters

      February 27, 2017 at 11:28 am

      Interesting how you offer no alternative argument other than to attack a reasonable position.

  2. Bob Whiters

    February 27, 2017 at 11:26 am

    Right on, Garry! We will see where all the other council members stand on this issue. Thank you for your principled leadership and not giving into the the argument of increased revenue from drug money. It is too bad we don’t have more people like you who care more about the kids of our community than raising revenue.

  3. Elimelech

    February 27, 2017 at 6:47 pm

    Based on Bredefield’s “logic” Lets also ban recreational Alcohol and close down all the bars and liquor stores. We should only allow medical alcohol with a doctor’s recommendation

    • Sam

      February 28, 2017 at 2:39 pm

      I thought the very same thing! Alcohol is the gateway drug. I don’t know of anyone that has tried marijuana before chugging a beer.

  4. Joe

    February 27, 2017 at 9:40 pm

    Nothing worse than a moralizing politician.

    Gee Gary, what kind of societal impact has alcohol had? How about cigarettes?

    As a parent, I thank you for unilaterally deciding to protect my kids for me.

  5. Mike

    February 28, 2017 at 9:26 am

    Gary, let me play the devil’s advocate. How many of your points are also valid for an anti-alcohol piece? If we aren’t arguing for the prohibition of recreational alcohol as vehemently as we argue for the prohibition of recreational marijuana, aren’t we being a bit hypocritical?

  6. Judith

    February 28, 2017 at 9:33 am

    Finally, a voice of reason from someone who has seen the negative impact first hand.

  7. Dan

    February 28, 2017 at 9:47 am

    Its legal, zone it and move on to important things. If you are not going to allow dispensaries, start closing bars and liquor stores.

  8. Gary

    February 28, 2017 at 10:11 am

    ok. We’ll just keep on going to Bakersfield and give them the tax revenue.
    Brilliant!

  9. Grandpa

    February 28, 2017 at 10:21 am

    The real gateway drug of all gateway drugs, is tobacco. Tobacco also comes with lifelong addiction issues and cancer, causing death to many and damage to second hand smokers. So lets start by banning tobacco sales at all drug and grocery stores and requiring all smokers to go to licensed dispensaries, and pay taxes truly commensurate with the damage done. About $10 a pack, to start.
    Next comes alcohol. WE tried Prohibition, and the did not work so good. So lets try the dispensary route there too. NO more alcohol outside the home, at restaurants etc. Go to dispensaries and pay taxes that cover the damage done by alcoholism, DUIS, Domestic Violence, etc. Maybe another $10 per drink?
    Then Marijuana. Sure, regulate it the same way. Find a tax level that covers the damage done and discourages sales to kids, and limit sales to dispensaries. But you have got to have legal dispensaries if you don’t want street sales, want to have quality control to keep out pesticides, etc. Street sellers will sell to kids all day long. Legal dispensaries have a license to keep, so they wont.

    So Garry needs to get off his high horse and think this through.

  10. Brian B Thomelson

    February 28, 2017 at 10:29 am

    Its legal for adults to smoke and possess in all of CA. Advertisements from other counties will be on our airwaves so the kids are going to see them. People will just drive to other counties and bring it back here legally. This will only drive revenue out of our county. Stopping recreational dispensaries in Fresno will only amount to a minor inconvenience for the tens of thousands who will enjoy legal cannabis here in Fresno regardless of the availability of local recreational dispensaries. Stifling small business and loss of revenue for the city are all this measure will accomplish.

  11. Bob

    February 28, 2017 at 11:38 am

    Looks like all the potheads are out in full force. With their idiotic arguments, why don’t we legalize cocaine, heroine, and opium? We should not have prohibition on these drugs too. Additionally, why doesn’t CA allow state colleges to sell these drugs on state campuses or near high schools? These students are 18 years old and should be able to purchase these drugs. We can get lots of revenue!

  12. Mike

    February 28, 2017 at 1:17 pm

    Gary, while I’m not fond of the law, you are supporting your arguments on arguable statistics. For example, there was only one more total fatality between 2010 and 2014 in Washington State, and though the number of related fatalities with THC present doubled, we know nothing of impairment deaths. AAA has asked for a two step assessment. I suspect the number of Gay married couples involved in accidents has increased also, but there is no cause and effect relationship. Not even Colorado has adequately gotten their arms around the school effects. We do know there is no statistical difference in children using the drug before and after. I would suspect that tainted marijuana has substantially decreased. And, most importantly, I suspect organized crime has decreased. Most voters feel the net effect has been positive, and traffic fatalities have actually decreased in the state. Child use does concern me. Pediatric use is associated with schizophrenia where it is not the case in adult use. I suspect that legalization may attract homeless people, so outlawing may police your streets.

    While I feel that the drug is detrimental, and child use is a social concern, possibly raising to a CPS report when identified, as an ER nurse, I would hope in the future you would refrain from making veiled scientific arguments as an expert and cite what are, at this point, statistics that cannot be attributed to your argument.

  13. Michael Green

    February 28, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    Let’s put aside the moral arguments for now. They’re unwinnable and they skirt the real issues facing the city. The passage of two landmark state laws — the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (2015, Legislature) and the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (2016, Prop. 64) is rapidly leaving moral arguments in the dust. All around the state, the focus is shifting away from WHETHER we should regulate cannabis (asked and answered by state lawmakers and voters) to HOW, WHERE and WHEN we should regulate.

    Council Member Bredefeld and many other elected officials would have you believe that prohibiting cannabis dispensaries or retailers will solve a litany of social ills. Not true. The unregulated cannabis economy is thriving in the city and county of Fresno despite existing bans on medical cannabis businesses. Adding non-medical businesses to the existing prohibition ignores the most basic of facts: The city has neither the staffing nor the practical ability to ban cannabis use and commerce within the city limits.

    Here’s what the city can and should do: Acknowledge, once and for all, that Prop. 215 patients deserve safe access to cannabis through a mix of personal cultivation and state-licensed businesses. For all the bluster, it appears the feds are leaving medical marijuana alone, so how about showing a little love to the long-suffering patients of Fresno? Better yet, let’s acknowledge what the state of California does: Both medical and non-medical use occur and should be regulated through state and local laws.

    The biggest pipe dream in Fresno for lo these many years is that local bans are effective in controlling the prohibited conduct. The real facts before us suggest the exact opposite is true: The city ordinance is disconnected from reality. Rejecting Bradefeld’s suggestion should be just the first step in crafting reasonable personal and commercial regulations that Fresnans fully deserve.

  14. AA

    February 28, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    Gary, we have numerous problems in our city from bad air, bad drinking water, crime, you name it. Legal marijuana is the least worrying of people’s concern. If you are elected by the people, you need to listen to them and represent them and not impose you own moral values on the society.

  15. Courtland Gentry

    February 28, 2017 at 8:36 pm

    Setting aside the moral argument, because data required for a formal cost-benefit analysis is not available at this time, invokingfiscal rhetoric to advance the legalization agenda is not merely irresponsible, it is also deceitful. The value gains cannot be gauged at this time because (1) revenues from licensing and regulatory schemes vary by state, (2) tax revenue projections rely on assumptions about unknown impact of black market supply in consumer demand in regulated markets, (3) new expenditures on health and safety costs, and (4) banking issues pose major obstacles for businesses

    • George

      March 15, 2017 at 1:12 pm

      Mr Gentry – it seems that you are arguing that if we cannot precisely quantify something we shouldn’t bother trying to project it, we should just pretend it doesn’t exist. I think THAT is irresponsible.

      There will with out question be a net positive impact on tax revenue. You allude to increased health and safety costs but offer no evidence evidence for such.

      The banking issues are real, but temporary – institutional money is already finding ways to profit from cannabis with out liability/exposure – google “innovative industrial properties” if you’d like to get an idea of how. The banking/finserv industries want a piece and they’ll push the political buttons they need to to get it eventually.

      This is happening, the writing is on the wall – this should be obvious to those who are paying attention. The question for Fresno city leaders is will we get ahead of it and establish forward thinking regulations that allow us to achieve our public safety goals while still capitalizing on the tremendous economic benefits that are possible, or will be sit on our high horse and pretend their is some kind of “moral” imperative at play here.

      Moral arguments about personal behavior in the context of a public policy debate should ring hollow to anyone who understands what America is about.

      Dispensaries are a secondary issue though – production and cultivation is far more important for Fresno. We are better positioned than nearly any other city to capitalize on this emerging industry – we lead and innovate in the ag and food production sectors, that is what Fresno is known for – why in the world would we sit this out?

      Hanford just lost a project that promised to create 1100 full time, $15/hr+ jobs because they wouldn’t act quickly enough. These businesses bend over backwards for municipalities/counties – they pay special assessments, agree to arduous conditions, etc. Meanwhile Fresno is offering millions in incentives to bring some warehousing jobs to South Fresno.

      I think ignoring this opportunity is irresponsible – I’ll say it again, this IS happening, whether any particular individual likes it or not.

  16. Dan Waterhouse

    March 3, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    Unfortunately Bredefeld may have political aspirations beyond city council so he’s trying to out conservative Brandau. It was refreshing to see Olivier come out in support of marijuana today.

    The drug war is a huge failure-Americans are the biggest consumers of opiates in the world these days. What we’ve been doing for the last 50 years hasn’t worked-just like mass incarceration-so perhaps we need to try something else. In the meantime Bredefeld needs to stick to the voodoo science he practices and quit trying to set policy.

  17. Dan Waterhouse

    March 4, 2017 at 5:46 am

    An explanation of my reference to “voodoo science”: over the years I’ve done quite a bit of reading on psychology and psychiatry. As a result I have become increasingly convinced there is little science supporting their basic premise. Opinions can be bought and sold for money and the two fields seem to be owned by Big Pharma. I’m reminded of the advice my parents were given many years ago: if you want a well adjusted child, keep him or her away from psychology.

  18. Aaron Holley

    March 5, 2017 at 8:34 pm

    Garry Bredefeld is the worst kind of Statist: the moral one. Mr. Bredefeld’s 30 years in mental-health has provided first-hand knowledge of the myriad of pychosocial and societal consequences of marijuana use. Mr. Bredefled can be described as a psychological technocratic Statist. In his piece (http://www.cvobserver.com/view/oped-bredfeld-marijuana-cultivation/) for the Central Valley Observer he frames his crusade thusly:
    We need to think about the children. There will be advertising on TV sending the message that “getting high is not a problem and is, in fact, sanctioned by the State.” This message wrapped in slick Madison Avenue glitz will entice the impressionable to take up marijuana. The kids will experience developmental harm and mental impairment demonstrated as poor memory, the inability to “learn and focus”, and a “decrease neuropsychological functioning.” Their academic future will be plagued by “poor school performance, higher rates of absenteeism, and increased mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.” Current and new users of marijuana will suffer the health consequences of “immune system damage, birth defects, cardiovascular disease, stroke, respiratory problems and lung cancer.” Crime will increase. More people will be driving under the influence of marijuana. The recreational dispensaries will be targets for robberies. “There will be a rise in youth arrests.” Financial costs to society will increase. Prisons will become even more crowded. Society will slip into insanity and will legalize prostitution, cocaine and other illicit drugs. “Societal decay” will be firmly entrenched. In desperation and incompetence we will early-release known gang members who will indiscriminately murder police and civilians.
    The above picture is grim and very condescending. This is strategic. Like a typical Statist conducting a psychological operation against his citizens, he elicits fear over chaos and decline. His propaganda seeks to tell We the People that decriminalization of marijuana creates more crime, increases societal costs, destroys our youth, and cements our collective “decline.” I guess Mr. Bredefld didn’t get the memo about We the Patriots making America great again. Get a clue Mr. Bredefld: we don’t want Government intruding on our lives. We don’t want your Nanny State. Figure out why you’re on the City Council and stop being pessimistic, patronizing, and dishonest.

  19. Robert Schmidt Jr.

    March 18, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    Mr. Bredefeld, looks too me like you’re getting false info from SAM (smart approaches to marijuana). SAM twists facts around for the purpose of misleading people to support their anti cannabis agenda. For example, I have been reading that states that have legalized cannabis have seen a decrease in traffic fatalities. Yet people like SAM are claiming “marijuana related” traffic related fatalities are sky rocketing. I can believe more people are testing positive for cannabis and you are correct that there’s no way to test if a driver is impaired on cannabis but there are tests that can prove someone has used it within the last few weeks. This proves nothing on a driver being impaired or not. Counting this as marijuana related is deceiving people into believing the crashes are from cannabis use. Using this logic, at least 90% of all fatal crashes are caffeine related. Your list of health issues show your lack of knowledge on what you’re talking about. I know a lot of people who have used cannabis for 30+ years and they have no more health issues than non users. I don’t know of any kids that have problems because their mothers used while pregnant, some are quite smart. Blacks and Mexicans use about the same as whites but are far more likely to get arrested for it and you want to keep it that way? Why? States that have legalized cannabis have seen a drop as much as 25% in opiate and heroin death rates and alcohol use has also gone down. Cannabis is a gateway OFF drugs, not on. I have a lot to say and I mean A LOT about on just what you have said but I’ll end it here.

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