It looks like medical marijuana businesses will soon be welcome in Eureka. And in the eyes of patients, those in the industry and even some proponents of good governance, it's about damn time.
A divided Eureka City Council recently voted 3-2, with councilmembers Melinda Ciarabellini and Marian Brady dissenting, to move forward with permitting and regulating the cultivation, transportation, manufacturing and testing of medical marijuana within city limits.
Eureka Community Development Director Rob Holmlund began his Sept. 6 presentation to the council with a statement that, while shrug-worthy in much of the country at this point, could be seen as revolutionary in Eureka, which has seen a moratorium on cannabis businesses exist in the city, in one form or another, since 2010.
"In my professional opinion, through all of my research, it is my opinion that regulation is better than the black market," Holmlund told the council.
Holmlund's presentation offered a brief yet comprehensive overview of the current state of California's cannabis industry and how we got here. Then he followed up with some Eureka-specific projections.
Staff is projecting the newly passed ordinance will ultimately result in anywhere from 25 to 68 cannabis businesses opening up within city limits, creating anywhere from 62 to 434 jobs, each of which would bring home average wages of between $38,000 and $70,000 annually. The city would receive somewhere between $55,500 and $155,200 in additional tax revenues, he projected.
Additionally, Holmlund noted that the city potentially has about 75 acres of unused industrial lands, some of which the industry could put to use. Holmlund explained that transportation costs are high for the industry that generally operates on a per-pound fee, which puts Eureka in the advantageous position of potentially becoming a processing and manufacturing hub in the middle of a "massive cultivation" region.
The ordinance includes a host of regulations to protect the local community, Holmlund pointed out, including mandatory annual inspections and prohibitions on operating within 600 feet of most schools and parks.
Holmlund also brought up the city's sizeable problem of unregulated butane hash labs. "We have hash labs in Eureka. They explode. They're bad news," he said. There's nothing inherently more dangerous about a hash lab with a couple of tanks of propane than the Chevron fuel terminal, Holmlund said. The difference is the Chevron facility is highly regulated.
Ciarabellini was dismissive of the idea that regulation would decrease the number of illicit hash labs in the city, and expressed concerns during the meeting about the city being overrun with marijuana businesses and whether some might market toward children. Brady, meanwhile, wondered if federal banking restrictions might make it easy for cannabis businesses to dodge paying local taxes. Ultimately, however, the council majority agreed with Holmlund's assessment that regulation is preferable to the current state of things.
"The question is, Do we want to regulate an existing black market and create living wage jobs?" Holmlund asked.
Good news! Now that Eureka has opened the door for dispensaries, it looks like its citizens are in line to slim down considerably.
Researchers at the University of Miami recently released a study finding that cannabis users are less likely to be overweight. Specifically, the study published in the Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics found that people who use marijuana regularly are more likely to have lower Body Mass Indexes than their square counterparts.
Wow, I guess pot really does cure everything. So there you go Eureka, grab some dabs and a bag of Doritos. To paraphrase a prominent local cannabis activist paraphrasing the Communist Manifesto, you have nothing to lose but your pounds and your sobriety.