California Is Really Screwing Up Its First Year of Recreational Cannabis

Oregon's got about a tenth of Caifornia's population but more recreational weed shops than its southern neighbor.

Oregonians understand how to smoke weed. (Emily Joan Greene)

The Los Angeles Times this week published a withering look at California's first year of legalized recreational cannabis.

Unlike in Oregon, where many jurisdictions embraced legal weed after the passage of a 2014 ballot measure, California cities and towns have been less welcoming. Fewer than 20 percent of the state's cities allow recreational cannabis sales and in Los Angeles County, only six of the county's 88 cities allow sales.

Unlike in Oregon, where sales and tax revenue have consistently exceeded state estimates, California is trailing projections.

“Based on taxes collected since Jan. 1, the state is expected to bring in $471 million in revenue this fiscal year — much less than the $630 million projected in Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget,” the Times reports.

In Oregon, policy makers established a low-tax, high volume policy to dry up the black market. In California, however, high taxes have contributed to slow sales.

"The various taxes and fees could drive up the cost of legal cannabis in parts of California by 45%, according to the global credit ratings firm Fitch Ratings," the Times reports. "There is less of a tax burden in Oregon, where voters legalized recreational pot in 2014, and state and local taxes are capped at 20%. With nearly a tenth of the population of California, that state has more licensed cannabis shops — 601."

And then there is the NIMBY factor.

"Sanjay Bagai, a former investment banker who lives with his family next door to a new cannabis farm in Sonoma County, is a leader of a residents group called Save Our Sonoma Neighborhoods, which has obtained a preliminary court ruling against one cannabis-growing operation," the Times reports.

"Bagai said his group was 'not anti-cannabis' but added that pot cultivation 'is not something that fits into our neighborhood here.'"

"The smell is horrific," he said of the marijuana plants. "It's like rotting flesh. And the traffic is insane."

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