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Oakland Mulls Cannabis as Land Use and Then Forgot What It Was Thinking About

Whether or not Prop 19 passes, the Oakland City Council is already considering legalizing marijuana for fiscal reasons

A local owner of industrial sheds claims that if he fills 172,000 square feet of marijuana-related uses, such as growing plants in otherwise empty warehouses, the city could scoop up a cool $38 million annually. That's every year.  (Note to municipal auditor/controllers: Wouldn't an additional $38 million sound good right about now?) The very best part of the story in the L.A. Times, however, is the comment by the real estate owner, Jeff Wilcox, to city officials. "My idea," he said, "is of a cannabis based business park."

Whatever one's opinion on the merits of this proposal, one must admire the sublime word magic afoot in this short sentence. Here is a culture re-creating itself by bringing the older, sacral values into new lines of work. By interpolating words that we like, such as business park, with a legitimizing half-euphemism like cannabis (as opposed to "marijuana"), we enact the cultural shift in attitudes toward pot growing from that of hippy moonshining into a kind-of-OK industry, like "gaming," "adult entertainment," and so on.

And these "sin-dustries," like 'em or not, and their associated business parks with their lush, suburban style landscaping and their parking ratios of four spaces for every 1,000 feet of leased floor area, are not to be scorned, for they help fill the yawning public purse. As the book says, "the Lord moves in mysterious ways."   

    But how do you go about explaining this vote to the rest of the nation, including places where people are still being tossed in prison for possessing this particular verdure, which is just naturally bad, like snakes, tarantulas and beetles large enough to be frightening. Maybe it has to do with Original Sin. I'll have to Google it. 

    Here, published for the first time anywhere, is an actual record of the inner workings of the mind of an unnamed Oakland official, who happens to be fictitious, but is otherwise credible. 

    "Hard to explain my vote for this. What to say to the reporters from the national news networks, from National Public Radio, from Fox News…" (a wave of nauseating fear comes over the person).

    "On the other hand, why not?  Is lightning going to strike us? Lightning would be progress here."

    "But how do I explain this to my church-going mother, who believes that government should never condone bad behavior? (Not that I officially hold a position on the near-infinite benefit to be had from cultivating this particular cash crop, if these inflated, absurd numbers are to be believed!)"

    "My private life? I have a card, of course. Plus, my insurance pays for it, which they never would for martinis, which is also capable of a medicinal effects, believe you me. But who's to argue?"

--Morris Newman