The men and women of the Anaheim Police Association who proudly work within the Anaheim Police Department, are dedicated to protecting and serving all people, families, businesses in Anaheim. Each day, they put their lives on the line to serve and protect all from crime. Whether it is hard core with criminal acts that hurt or steal from those (especially the physically vulnerable and elderly who are more at-risk than ever while sheltering-in-place). Or those committing crimes behind the scenes (wire fraud, electronic theft, scams, viruses, creating fraudulent products and appeals for monies). All crimes are dangerous, the latter result from a growing and modern society.
Let’s talk about the latter now. The passage of Proposition 64 in 2016 mandated sweeping changes in California’s marijuana laws by legalizing the recreational use and sale of cannabis products (previously limited to permitted medicinal permitted uses). Law enforcement organizations around the state – including the Anaheim Police Association – generally opposed Prop. 64, having been taught and trained to capture illegal drugs such as cannabis.
However, California voters took a different view: 57% approved Proposition 64, including a majority of Anaheim voters. That means while federally it is still illegal and causes bumps with federal banking regulations, we in Anaheim, Orange County and the State of California must abide by the law and the lawful uses it prescribes for cannabis. Local jurisdictions may approve guidelines after Proposition 64’s passage to permit it in various cities or other local jurisdictions as appropriate. The State is not imposing its will, but for years now dozens of other cities are moving toward the regulation, taxation and legalization of cannabis.
While the City of Anaheim has thus far prohibited the operation of legal cannabis businesses within city limits, it should come as no surprise that cannabis is already being used by tens of thousands of customers. It is being delivered from neighboring cities like Garden Grove, Santa Ana, La Habra, Long Beach and more to Anaheim residents. At any given moment, there may be 20 to 40 (or more) illegal cannabis businesses operating here in our city. Products sold in illegal shops or by illegal distributors are unregulated for consumer safety, and often found to be tainted with pesticides and other harmful chemicals. We do not need to reinvent the wheel. The state and federal governments have long regulated tobacco and alcohol products ensure they are clean, safe, and accounted for – as well as generating taxes. This, in turn, reduces the illegal markets and the funds they provide to underwrite other illegal activities such as human trafficking, slavery, weapons and promoting other dangerous narcotics.
Each year, your own Anaheim Police and all of Orange County law enforcement spends enormous resources in an ongoing game of whack-a-mole with illegal pot shops. When we close one down, another one pops up elsewhere like in Anaheim.
As mentioned before, under Proposition 64, cannabis can be delivered from cities where it is legal and into cities (like Anaheim) where cannabis businesses are illegal. When cannabis is delivered to customers in Anaheim, from Santa Ana or Long Beach, for example – it is Santa Ana and Long Beach (and not Anaheim) that collect the taxes on those sale. We have the ability to regulate, tax and test clean and safe products. We must drive down the undergrown markets to have lawful products only supported – period.
This is happening right now in many other places and we need to deal with the reality of the negative impacts of illegal cannabis shops and sales while foregoing the benefits of carefully regulated and controlled legal cannabis operations. This is a no-win situation for Anaheim residents and law enforcement.
After considerable study and consultation with experts and stakeholders, the Anaheim Police Association along with numerous other law enforcement agencies in the State, which represents Anaheim’s hundreds of sworn peace officers support approval of the cannabis legalization ordinance before the city council today on May 12. There will be various ongoing changes, input and a tax measure placed on the November ballot and we will have input and help guide it along the way.
The APA along with the Orange County Coalition of Police and Sheriffs believes this carefully crafted ordinance will help create an environment in which our peace officers will have the current regulations, resources, tools and more to effectively combat illegal pot shops. We need to drive the illegal businesses out and regulate, tax and monitor safe approved operators who pass strict licensing guidelines, interviews, background checks and more.
This ordinance before us will permit only a limited number of cannabis businesses, and these will be limited to designated industrial zones, away from residential neighborhoods. The ordinance will establish protective buffer zones buffer zones around schools, parks, libraries, daycare centers, and youth sites. Local, county and/or state regulations all play a role in this.
Furthermore, the ordinance establishes a stringent, merit-based application process. Applicants will have to demonstrate the ability to operate a safe, legal cannabis business, submit an approved operations plan that minimizes impacts on neighboring properties, as well as a community benefit plan. We believe these criteria safeguards will ensure only the reputable, sustainable cannabis business will operate in Anaheim.
On the enforcement side, the ordinance prohibits the outdoor cultivation of cannabis plants, and allows the city to enact fees on licensed cannabis operations to fund the regulatory, oversight and compliance costs.
The establishment of legal cannabis businesses that can operate openly in fixed locations, while being lawfully enforced under rules that ensure their customers are able to buy safe, reliable products will create the conditions for helping to drive illegal, fly-by-night pot shops out of the city. The revenues generated by these legal businesses will provide Anaheim city officials and law enforcement with more resources to help crack down on illegal marijuana shops. The City of Anaheim needs these new policies and revenues along with your local police involvement because we are already paying the price in this area for not having these rules in place while neighboring cities do.
The voters of California have voted to legalize cannabis. Now it is time to step up and realize we already have cannabis being used in Anaheim for dozens if not hundreds of years. The Anaheim Police Association believes it is time to update our laws and enforcement capabilities in harmony with the voters’ statewide, to more effectively protect and serve the people of Anaheim. The voters of Anaheim voted in favor of Proposition 64 previously so this is something already politically supported as a whole and needs to be ratified locally. This must be adopted by the city council along with a tax measure on the November ballot or both being placed on the November ballot. We would appreciate your support and open mind to bring Anaheim forward and help us generate the fees and enhanced protections for all ahead.
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Edgar Hampton is the President of the Anaheim Police Association (APA) and a retired military veteran.
Alan Barcelona is the Chair of the Orange County Coalition of Police and Sheriffs (OC Cops) and President of the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) — who represents over 7,000 statewide members, some of those are the sworn Peace Officers within the California Bureau of Cannabis Control under the CDFA.