Santa Monica Lookout Opinion

City Should Help Open Markets and Cafes, Not Pot Shops

May 28, 2024

Dear Editor,

On April 23rd the Santa Monica City Council discussed social equity in cannabis retailing. The main approach considered to give restoration to those who suffered from earlier harsh laws is to give them priority in opening cannabis stores.

This approach might help only a tiny minority of those who suffered past injustice, leaving the vast majority without assistance. Instead, it might be argued that we should offer cash payments to such victims, or perhaps assist them to open a coffee shop, or any other retail enterprise -- enterprises that would have fewer legal and bureaucratic hurdles.

And for some, selling cannabis might be a constant reminder of their prior suffering, and may be emotionally traumatic.

Furthermore, given its difficult regulatory and business environment where even the largest and best funded might fail (e.g. Medmen.), it is possible that many social-equity cannabis retailers will struggle – and so this may prove to be a poisoned chalice.

Of course some may succeed, which would be a tribute to their talents. But they would likely have succeeded in other ventures too, given the impetus and encouragement. Indeed, we should encourage and assist all small entrepreneurs, especially from disadvantaged communities.

Restoration for those who have suffered harsh punishment is worthy, but this issue is being misused as a sympathy wedge by the cannabis lobby, and big retailers, who may then drive mom-and-pop retailers out of business. Who knows how many social-equity pot retailers will survive long term?

All this does little for the majority who might have suffered from harsh justice -– and who may lack the ability or desire to operate a successful cannabis store long term.

And does selling cannabis in disadvantaged communities help the communities in any way? Is it not similar to selling tobacco or vapes? Surely there would be greater benefit from more produce markets, and cafes instead. Places where the all the community, of all ages, could meet and share.

Proximity to pot stores is proven to increase underage consumption (NIH), raising risks of schizophrenia ( and thus homelessness and suicide. So much for community benefits.

I urge our council to seek restoration for the all who suffered harsh justice, in a variety of restorative avenues, and not just cannabis retailing -- such retailing may be only available to a few, may be difficult to succeed at, potentially dangerous and some might find it resurfaces past trauma.

Peter Borresen
Santa Monica

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