I would like to urge the City Council to support having one or two marijuana dispensaries and other related businesses in Benicia. As a medical marijuana user, I would like to be able to buy locally. I think this could be a way to diversify our businesses and also our tax base. We are overly dependent on Valero for our tax revue. Just as it is dangerous for an individual to have too much stock in one company, it is dangerous for a city to be too reliant on one company or industry.
I appreciate the concern people have for the youth in our community, but those youth are exposed to drug-related programs and information on TV, radio, streaming services and the internet. If a high school student wants marijuana, he or she has no problem getting it now. If they want it through a dispensary, I do not think that the short drive to Vallejo will discourage them or anyone buying it for them. A better approach would be to tax the industry and have part of the proceeds dedicated to a realistic and factual education program that teaches the risks of marijuana to the developing brain. By demonizing a drug that is relatively harmless compared to tobacco, alcohol and opioids, we create distrust in our youth and they end up not believing anything we tell them about drugs. I would much rather have my teenager use marijuana than binge drink, use tobacco or take opioids. The drug crises we have in our country is not deaths from marijuana, but death from prescription drug use that becomes addictive and then deadly. In areas where marijuana is legal, there is less opioid use and fewer drug overdoses.
Allowing growing or other uses in the Industrial Park is appropriate. I would make sure that there is a place for a dispensary to operate. If you have too many restrictions on locations you might as well just say no. It might be useful to start with one in the lower Arsenal and see what the impact is. We should allow delivery services. Being able to pick the operators of a dispensary could make a huge difference in what we get.
My one caution is that many people use edibles, and unless the THC content is labeled it is difficult to tell how strong an edible is. I would approve of requiring all edibles to be labeled with the THC content, as well as requiring new users to be counseled regarding strength. Many edibles look like candy, and they could create a danger for young children. I think we have to trust that parents will protect their children. Our homes are full of dangers for young children including cleaning products, paints, insecticides, guns, light sockets, pails half full of water, staircases, etc. Unless we want to regulate all of these things I think we need to trust the parents. Marijuana is less deadly than any of the above. People do not die of marijuana overdoses.
I believe that a couple of years after we have a dispensary in operation, we could open another. I think at that time, there will be much less opposition because people will see that it does not negatively impact our quality of life.