A waste of millions

Jeff vonKaenel

First, full disclosure up front, my wife and I are majority owners of the News & Review, and our company makes major bank on medical-marijuana ads. So we, along with thousands of patients, hundreds of employees and many landlords, could be negatively impacted by last week’s county board of supervisors decision to spend at least a million dollars to shut down the county’s medical-marijuana dispensaries.

My question for the county board of supervisors: Did you lose your minds? Are you living in some parallel universe where Sacramento County has plenty of money, a fully staffed sheriff’s department, a well-run and well-funded Child Protective Services agency, and extra funds to spend on parks and the arts? Maybe in this parallel universe it would make sense to spend millions of dollars in enforcement and legal fees to close these medical-pot dispensaries.

But in today’s economic climate, we have to set priorities. In this universe, the one that you and I live in, the five members of our county board of supervisors just went through painful budget sessions. They asked employees to take pay cuts and reduced benefits. They laid off hundreds of county employees. They closed parks. They reduced funds that would have provided shelter for the homeless, along with hundreds of other much-needed, important services. What they said repeatedly was that they did not have the funds.

But somehow, they can find a million dollars to hire new building code enforcement and legal staff to close the medical-marijuana dispensaries. And somehow, they think they can find the money to pay the legal bills that will surely result from this decision. No reasonable person thinks that the tab will be just a million dollars. As sure as the sun rises in the morning, and as attorneys charge a substantial hourly rate, the county bill will be way north of a million dollars.

The county missed a golden opportunity. They could have taxed these dispensaries, as the city of Sacramento did. But instead, the board decided to do more damage to our already damaged county. Budget priorities reflect values, and I have to ask: Why?

Do the supervisors really believe that the closing of medical-marijuana dispensaries is a higher priority than having more sheriffs on the street? Is it more important than funding Child Protective Services so we can protect our community’s children? Is it a higher priority than providing resources to the district attorney’s office so we can prosecute real crimes? Is it more important than maintaining parks? Do they really believe this? If so, I believe that they are out of touch with the thinking of the people of Sacramento.

Where do you think the county should spend a million dollars? Take a minute, today, and tell members of the board of supervisors what you think. You can find their contact information on this page.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.