Legalize It: The Economic Debate in Long Beach

Nov. 30, 2012 / By

By VoiceWaves Youth Reporter Abbey Rhodes

This month Colorado and Washington State legalized marijuana for medicinal and recreational use.

Washington State analysts estimate the state could make around $2 billion in tax revenue in over five years. With California facing huge budget issues, could legalizing marijuana help Long Beach?

However, it seems the city is moving in the opposite direction. A recent enforcement of Long beach Municipal Code in October of this year resulted in the re-illegalization of marijuana in Long Beach, causing police raids on seven dispensaries in the downtown area. There were 40 arrests.

There are roughly 20 dispensaries for medical marijuana in the city, most of them in the Downtown and Westside areas.

When some people think of marijuana users, they imagine thugs, hippies, or just lazy punks who sit on their couches all day watching Beavis and Butt-Head. However, new research finds that the use of marijuana can give relief to those suffering with serious medical conditions, such as cancer, anorexia, or injuries that prohibit the individual from going about their daily lives.

Some Long Beach residents fear the violence that may come from marijuana clinics and dispensaries.

Patty, a resident in the California Heights Historical District, feels that the dispensaries in her neighborhood attract an “unsavory crowd”. “They are far too close to schools and parks. Some people may get a benefit from it, but the prescription should be filled by a pharmacist, not purchased at an unregulated location.”

Dispensaries operating without a permit issued from the city are frequently raided and sometimes even shut down, resulting in the arrest of the owner and all of the employees and customers present at the time. Besides being taken into custody at the time of arrest, individuals can face up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine for possession of any amount.

Daniel, the owner of a marijuana dispensary in the Historical District, commented on the raiding of his shop by police in October. “I had my windows broken, the door kicked in, and much of my product seized for evidence. There was easily $1,500 worth of damage done.”

Dispensary owners and patients are not the only ones affected by clinic closures or raids though. Many people who grow the marijuana or prepare the edibles to be distributed at the locations also take a hit, no pun intended. When dispensaries close, these growers are left without a place to sell their crop, or can even face criminal charges for supplying to an illegal operation.

Anna, a 26-year old living in downtown Long Beach, was trained and has a legal license to grow marijuana for dispensaries. She says she even had a hard time finding a place to live that would be “420 friendly”, or allows her to grow at her home.

In order to get a Medical Marijuana Identification Card (MMIC), you must go through a series of steps. First, you must obtain a written recommendation from your physician. Then, you have to fill out a Medical Marijuana Program Application form, and pay a non-refundable application fee of $153. That form plus the fee will then be turned in to the Osteopathic Medical Board of California so the physician’s license can be verified, and the card will be sent to the applicant in about 35 days.

Unfortunately, even after this tedious process in which every part of the application is verified by the county, under Federal law, it is still possible to be criminally prosecuted for possession of marijuana.

However, with the recent election to legalize marijuana in two states, some dream that legalization will be headed back to Long Beach.

“Tax the hell out of it!” said Patty. “It is a source of revenue that could bring in serious money for our city, as long as the government keeps an eye on it.”


Only first names were used in this article due to interviewees request for privacy.

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VoiceWaves is a Long Beach youth-led journalism and media-training project. The youth, ages 16-24, are learning to report, write, and create digital journalism content. Their reports will raise awareness of community health issues and activate change.