California Police Chief- Fall 2013 CPCA_2019_Spring Magazine- FINAL - Page 37

In addition to mountains of tax revenue, we would retain local control, the black market would die a quick death and funding for youth programs, and research would prevent spikes in DUID driving and abuse by minors. In actuality, 2018 marijuana revenues were $345 million, or roughly a third of the industry’s rosy projection. There is indeed room for growth, but the number says more about misinformation during the campaign than flawed tax rates. Fast-forward to today when Sacramento is inundated with lobbyists prophesying the imminent demise of the fledgling marijuana industry due to crushingly high taxes. Enter Assembly Bill 286, authored by Assemblymember Bonta. The bill would temporarily reduce California’s cannabis excise tax from 15% to 11% percent and suspend the cultivation tax altogether through 2022. The industry has argued small growers and retailers can’t compete with the black market, and as they go out of business, only the largest monopolistic companies will have the resources to survive. However, this was always going to be the case. Decisions on tax rates should not be knee jerk reactions to these market forces. Moreover, the promises made to California voters should not be undone in a futile attempt to rescue people who made a business decision to come out of the shadows. Law enforcement, of course, should want to encourage this, but not at the expense of funding for promised youth programs and the infrastructure needed to regulate cannabis properly. The primary flaw of focusing on tax rates is that it just puts cash in the pockets of the industry without addressing the real problem of enforcement. Without effective enforcement, any tax rate, combined with the costs of regulation, will keep the black market thriving. Budget and staffing challenges following the great recession led to hard choices for Chiefs. Narcotics units often ended up on the chopping block to cut costs. On the heels of these cuts, law enforcement responded to the will of the public and Sacramento as penalties for drug crimes were systematically reduced making arrests and prosecutions problematic. In short, many agencies got out of the proactive narcotics enforcement business. Current plans to combat the black market place too much emphasis on regulation and inspections with not nearly enough focus on investigations, enforcement operations, and good old fashioned arrests. Enforcement mechanisms should not just be focused at the state level and instead must be in partnership with local and county law enforcement agencies. Few police agencies, however, have the money or staff to start up a narcotics unit or commit personnel to task forces. This funding must come from the state. It’s encouraging there is talk of additional funding for enforcement efforts, but the details – like how much and where it’s directed - matter. We cannot combat the illegal cannabis market without enforcement any more than we can eliminate the illicit opioid market with Naloxone. There are already sufficient incentives in place to leave the black market. There must be more focus on deterrents for those choosing to reject lawful business practices. A focus on proactive enforcement and maximized penalties should be the priority before any consideration of rolling back tax rates. ■   SPRING 2019 | California Police Chief 37