Our marijuana future

Jeff vonKaenel

Californians smoke a lot of marijuana. As you can imagine, it’s not easy to get an accurate estimate of just how much. Marijuana has been called California’s biggest cash crop, representing between $11 billion and $17 billion a year in sales, nearly twice as much as California’s next largest commodity, milk and cream.

Some say these California crop values are highly inflated. Regardless of who is right, legalized or expanded medical marijuana represents billions of dollars in sales. This is a mind-blowing number for any local community hoping to expand its economy.

The question now before the Sacramento City Council is: To what extent can Sacramento be California’s marijuana breadbasket?

Sacramento has many advantages. We have agricultural expertise. We have land. We have low electricity rates. We have lower commercial costs than our coastal neighbors. And as other cities and counties reject marijuana production, they are leaving a greater opportunity open to us.

Corey Travis, owner of Two Rivers Wellness, told me that, if Sacramento embraces cannabis and its related industries and encourages investment and innovation, “We could expect to see cannabis market activity approach $500 million per year within 30 months.”

He says that this will impact job creation, and that the region could see hundreds of jobs that would generate more than $8 million a year in new wages. And this could mean as much as $20 million in tax revenues to the city of Sacramento.

While these are just estimates, there is no doubt that a thriving cannabis industry producing products to be sold outside our market would be a real boon to our local economy. Instead of competing with other local businesses for sales within our market, these would be new jobs creating a product to be sold across California.

New money would come into our market and new jobs would be created here. And not just in the cannabis industry. When these new employees produce a product that is sold in San Diego or Los Angeles, they have money to go out to eat in a restaurant in Sacramento. They use a dry cleaner in Sacramento. They go to a grocery store in Sacramento. One new manufacturing job can often create five additional new jobs from this “trickle down” effect.

There has been concern about safety. Legalization will help address this concern. Criminals are not breaking into breweries. Criminals are not raiding farms. Once marijuana is legalized, it would become more like any other legal operation.

There are concerns about young people using marijuana. But, any local high school student with rudimentary social skills and some cash can already easily purchase weed on the black market. This was true when I was in high school 50 years ago, and is still true today. Marijuana is one of the most readily available illegal drugs in the state.

Sacramento has an opportunity to significantly boost its economy by becoming a cannabis manufacturing center. We should seize the moment.

Just as the farm-to-fork movement has been a real blessing for our region, I believe a farm-to-joint movement would also be beneficial.

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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.