Commentary: Should Davis Have Recreational Dispensaries?

The voters of Davis in November voted overwhelmingly in favor of Proposition 64.  Nearly 70 percent of voters supported the measure in the city of Davis, which was well above the 60 percent support county-wide and well above the still strong margin of statewide support.

What the city will actually do with that is an open question.  As we noted yesterday, in two weeks there will be a workshop on a potential zoning amendment regarding personal cultivation of marijuana, followed by hearings on a potential ordinance later in the spring.

As we previously noted, the city is seeking community feedback through a surveymonkey survey to help guide this work.  The survey asks whether Davis residents should be able to grow marijuana in their backyards and whether there should be dispensaries permitted in Davis.

This seems like an odd question, because in a way the voters in Davis already voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use that includes a provision of being able to grow up to six plants and a potential allowance in 2018 for commercial sales.  So why would you re-survey the population using a non-scientific voluntary online survey instrument?

My personal view is that, as someone who voted a strong yes on Prop. 64, my intent was to allow people to legally purchase marijuana for recreational use.

Are we over-complicating this?  From my perspective, it seems relatively straightforward that we regulate use, much like we do cigarettes and alcohol.

That means people could purchase the marijuana at a licensed establishment much as they purchase alcohol and tobacco in a licensed establishment.  That means that you probably don’t allow dispensaries in residential areas.

The point was made that the sheer number and complexity of issues is much greater than one might expect.  And there are issues such as product labeling that have yet to be addressed.  There are also issues about what impairment does and what can lead to overdose, which is a growing problem because of THC concentrations especially in edibles.

But a lot of this also has to do with money.  Under Prop. 64, legal recreational marijuana sales will commence on January 1, 2018.  The initiative applies a 15 percent excise tax on recreational and medical marijuana.  The state sales tax is tacked on top of that for recreational but not medical marijuana.

Activists and growers are concerned because many local jurisdictions have piled on their own taxes, in some cases up to 15 percent on top of the 15 percent from the state.  That has led some to worry that the tax hit of nearly 25 percent will produce a strong incentive for growthers to evade regulations and continue to sell on the illegal market.

As Wire Magazine pointed out this week: “Marijuana taxes are tricky. Too little and the state loses out. Too much and tokers turn to the black market. California’s 15 percent excise tax falls comfortably in between.”  But not if you add local taxes.

There is another problem, because marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, and the Attorney General under the Trump administration is frowning on recreational marijuana, and many banks and credit card companies will not do business with dispensaries.  That is leading to a multi-billion dollar cash market.

However, that is creating a new industry of startups like Tokken, which are developing smartphone payment systems.

But this too is causing problems for assessors to collect fees and taxes.

Driving while intoxicated, much like alcohol, will have consequences, but there is a trick here as researchers have found little correlation between THC levels in the body and actual levels of intoxication.  That will make DUIs more tricky to prosecute.

Prop. 64 does allocate $3 million per year toward establishing standard protocols.

But at the local level there has always seemed to be a disconnect between people’s votes on state and national issues and people’s conduct.  Davis strongly supported Prop. 215 in 1996, but when it came time for allowing medical marijuana dispensaries, Davis banned them.

Sources tell the Vanguard that medical marijuana dispensaries are now a no-brainer for Davis, and the council is going to reconsider their previous ban, but the question is whether Davis will allow commercial and recreational dispensaries for non-medical use – and that seems to be an open question at this point, despite the overwhelming support in Davis for Prop. 64.

The Vanguard will be looking into this issue more fully at a community discussion it is hosting on April 6 – details forthcoming.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Related posts


  1. Richard C

    …the question is whether Davis will allow commercial and recreational dispensaries for non-medical use and that seems to be an open question at this point …

    It seems like the national trend has been towards allowing such dispensaries in states that have legalized recreational sales. I think the Council should be looking at the potential revenue that could be generated from such establishments in the future once the various legal and technical issues are resolved.

    Do we want to see dispensaries located in Woodland or West Sacramento that would generate revenue for those cities while Davis once again loses out on potential tax revenue?

      1. Keith O

        Maybe some people see not selling recreational drugs locally as the right thing to do regardless of any missed revenue.  You know like how some liberals feel we should continue to call ourselves a sanctuary city even though it might cost us millions.

        [moderator] Please stay on topic.

        1. David Greenwald

          Then why would 70 percent of them to vote to legalize Marijuana recreationally?  There is a word for people who are willing to permit an activity but not in their own back yard.

  2. Delia M.,

    Yes. If Davis allows the sale of alcohol and prescription drugs, it should allow recreational dispensaries. Also , the city may benefit from sales tax revenues.

  3. John Hobbs

    Davis is so far behind the curve that I strongly suspect that the regulations on dispensaries will evolve faster than the council/citizens can agree to adapt. Get a better deal across the causeway! (Where all the commercial and ag science development is coming!)

  4. Richard C

    Davis is so far behind the curve that I strongly suspect that the regulations on dispensaries will evolve faster than the council/citizens can agree to adapt.

    Yes.  It’s interesting to see that there is tremendous interest in looking at new hotels for Davis to generate revenue, but there seems to be not much interest in looking at the possibility of dispensaries.  At the very least, we should have some analysis of the potential revenue that could be generated for the city.  This should be part of our “Economic Development” efforts.

    What about the former Whole Foods Market site as a location for a dispensary 🙂

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for