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Chowchilla discusses legal pot

Nancy Simpson/The Madera Tribune

Chowchilla residents take part in a community round table meeting on commercial cannabis Tuesday night at their city hall.


The Chowchilla City Council’s Ad Hoc Committee hosted an informal “listening session” for the public this week on how or whether to regulate marijuana manufacturing, distribution and sales within city limits.

Currently Chowchilla does not allow the sale of marijuana within city limits. But Proposition 64, approved by 57 percent of California voters in 2016, allows local governments the ability to regulate or ban commercial pot operations. Already small cities such as Coalinga, Corcoran, Hanford and Woodlake have begun to compete for such enterprises in hopes of boosting their economies, according to media reports.

In Madera County, 55 percent of voters rejected Proposition 64.

“There are different models out there” for profiting off of commercial marijuana, said a meeting participant Tuesday. “And tonight is about what should be Chowchilla’s (model). Where should we go? This is our listening session to find the best route to go.”

Such models don’t all include the sale of marijuana.

“A dispensary will never happen in Chowchilla,” City Councilman Ray Barragan reassured attendees at the meeting.

Randi Knott, public affairs director of Genezen LLC, offered a slideshow presentation on the potential benefits of marijuana commerce for Chowchilla. Genezen has courted multiple cities this year to establish medical cannabis growing and processing operations and more.

Commercial cultivation of marijuana would rely on city water or private wells.

“Marijuana is a water sucker,” warned Madera County Supervisor David Rogers, District 2.

Black market

One hope expressed by a cannabis supporter at the meeting was that the legal market for marijuana would someday push out the black market for the drug.

So far, however, the effect has been the opposite, according to Trevor Hughes of USA Today. The legalization of marijuana has increased illegal drug cartel activity in states where it is legal, he reported, and has boosted the pot black market in neighboring states as the crop now can be shipped domestically instead of internationally.

“The cartel’s going to grow their marijuana in California because the risk is minimal,” Lt. Paul Bennett, of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, told Hughes.

A draft assessment by the Oregon State Police said that legalization in the state “has provided an effective means to launder cannabis products and proceeds, where in essence, actors can exploit legal mechanisms to obscure products’ origin and conceal true profits, thereby blurring the boundaries of the legal market and complicating enforcement efforts.”

Legalization has also caused marijuana prices to plummet in states where it is legalized, according to The Cannabist magazine, as much as by 67 percent in three years in Washington State. This has caused tax revenue declines for many states hoping to cash in on its sale. In Colorado, both the price for marijuana and tax revenues dropped by 25 percent in a year of legalization.


Nancy Simpson of The Madera Tribune contributed to this article.

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