Many public officials are already enthusiastically counting the tax dollars that legalization of marijuana will bring into their public treasuries, but not Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.
In contrast to the enthusiasm in political circles, the media and among voters over legalization, approved in 2016, the supervisor offered a cautious, even gloomy, vision. He spoke Wednesday to a packed banquet room at a Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum luncheon at the Palm, downtown, organized by public affairs consultant Emma Schafer.
"A full 30 percent of those who are homeless suffer from substance abuse disorders and the like," he said. "The legalization of cannabis will impact this homeless crisis in a way that we ought to be honest with each other about."
Ridley-Thomas said the appearance of marijuana shops would hurt neighborhoods. Plans to revitalize the Crenshaw area with completion of a light rail line could be damaged by such enterprises, he said.
Nor did he agree that the marijuana industry would create many jobs. He noted scornfully that marijuana business people call this vision of more jobs "social equity." He said, "This term has been co-opted by those who think they are going to democratize the cannabis industry, cause those communities that are underdeveloped with a high rate of unemployment to suddenly be free at last. I beg to differ. "
He compared the shops to the liquor stores that proliferate in poor parts of his African American and Latino South Los Angeles district. He warned against "a concentration of unhealthy businesses like liquor stores and the like."
He also warned that neurologists are finding that cannabis induces adolescent psychosis, which "is increasing at an alarming rate."