A big question facing Madera County as we approach 2018 is what effect Prop. 64, the marijuana legalization measure, will have on us once it goes into effect Monday, Jan. 1.
One thing we know is that Madera County already is a big producer of marijuana in the underground economy. Tons of the stuff are produced in the county’s forest lands and on some farms, all of it illegal, and much of it with the labor of workers smuggled in by cartels just to grow and harvest the crop.
Most of the harvest goes out of county, but much of the harm stays here in the form of violence and damage to public and private property.
One fact we know is that the new law probably won’t make it any easier to get marijuana than it already is.
People who choose to grow it legally under the rules of the new law will have to use it themselves. Under Prop. 64 and local regulations, they won’t be able to sell it.
And if they do decide to try to get into the illegal market for pot, they might find themselves up against the gangsters who already sell marijuana here.
Those gangsters who have made a lot of money producing and selling marijuana in our county won’t want to give up a good thing. They will use guns and violent tactics to hang on to their territories and their customer bases.
It isn’t likely the legalization of marijuana will convey benefits on our county. And it well could be that the use of marijuana, even though legal, could create a public danger not unlike the over-use of alcohol, that could make our streets more dangerous and our schools and workplaces less safe than they should be.
We know the public voted for Prop. 64, and we must respect the law. But it will be surprising if any of the so-called benefits, such as significant new tax revenues, actually materialize. It’s much more likely to be a danger to our children and a big headache for law enforcement.