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Friday, Jun 21, 2024

Not Getting High on This Vote

Californians’ decision to legalize marijuana may well help businesses. It will create a bigger marijuana industry and boost all the usual service businesses, from accountants and security guards to real estate brokers and lawyers. And it’ll help Howard Samuels’ business, too. But he does not want the extra work. Samuels is a counselor who owns the Hills Treatment Center on the Valley side of Mulholland Drive. He treats people with addictions. “I see people with anxiety disorders, panic attacks and people who lack motivation,” he said. “Basically, a lot of them are not high-functioning individuals.” Virtually all of them, he said, started by smoking marijuana. His objection is a personal one, and his story is embarrassing. He started smoking weed at age 14 or 15 and started using heroin and cocaine by the age of 16. In the early 1970s, when he was 19, he was pulled out of line at John F. Kennedy Airport for a search and was arrested for possession of heroin and cocaine, a felony. His father, whose business created the Hefty plastic bag and who had served in President Lyndon Johnson’s administration, was running for governor of New York at the time. Young Samuels was “on every cover of every newspaper in New York,” he said. His father lost. Still, Samuels remained an incorrigible addict until 1984 when his family staged an intervention, for which he is grateful today. He’s been clean and sober since and now runs his treatment center, which was in the news a few months ago when Lisa Marie Presley reportedly checked in. (Samuels would not confirm or deny that report.) Samuels would like to see marijuana decriminalized, as in possession would get you a ticket. But he doesn’t like this extreme swing in which California is sending the message that smoking weed is OK. “I’ve got three kids,” he said. “Now they’re getting the message that marijuana is safe. As a parent, I’m shocked.” In Colorado, which several years ago legalized recreational toking, marijuana-related traffic accidents are up more than 150 percent over eight years and drug-related school suspensions are up 40 percent in six years. “Now that it’s legal, we’ve opened up Pandora’s Box. It will be mass produced and mass promoted. We’re going to see a huge rise in access to marijuana and a huge rise in addiction rates for that drug,” he said. That’ll be great for his billable hours. But not for the greater society. “My business is going to do really well,” he said. “Unfortunately.” • • • The Santa Clarita Valley along with cities in the Antelope and Conejo valleys often market themselves as a kind of low-cost alternative. A business in those places can enjoy the benefits of being in the Los Angeles area but evade many of the high costs associated with the L.A. basin. In case anyone was wondering, Larry Kosmont last week said it is absolutely fair and accurate for them to make that assertion. He’s the guy behind the annual Kosmont-Rose Institute Cost of Doing Business Survey, which came out last week. That survey compiles the taxes and fees imposed on businesses by 305 cities in the western United States, mostly California. Not surprisingly, the survey consistently shows that high-cost cities are clustered in California and low-cost ones in Texas. But, surprisingly, that broad statement can be misleading, he said. Why? Because there are some low-cost cities in California. He uses a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most expensive, to rank each city’s cost of taxes and fees. Agoura Hills, Santa Clarita and Lancaster each got a 2, which is “very low for California,” he said. Westlake Village even scored a 1. By contrast, the cities of Los Angeles, Culver City and Santa Monica got 5s. So, you might be thinking, that’s fine for cities in Santa Clarita, Antelope, Conejo and Simi valleys to emphasize low costs. But what about the San Fernando Valley? Since most of it is in the city of Los Angeles, businesses there face those 5-level taxes and fees. They can’t make the same low-cost marketing pitch. Actually, the Valley can make such a pitch, albeit a different one. Other costs, such as real estate (which the Kosmont survey does not address), can be lower in the Valley compared to the rest of Los Angeles. Take Class A office space. In the third quarter, such space rented for $2.41 a square foot in Woodland Hills compared to $3.71 in the roughly comparable market of the Miracle Mile area of Los Angeles. Likewise, residential properties can be less. Houses sold for about $500 a square foot in Encino in September, much less than in Culver City, where they went for $678 or $874 (depending on the ZIP code). The low-cost pitch is about to become more important than ever. Going forward, prices will get much higher in California, Kosmont said. That’s because of the effect of SB 32, designed to drastically cut carbon emissions. That means businesses will be scrambling to cut costs. For the whole Valley area, the enticement will be a powerful one: Come here. You will reduce costs without having to uproot and move to another state. Come here. We’re just over the hill. Charles Crumpley is editor and publisher of the Business Journal. He can be reached at [email protected].

Charles Crumpley
Charles Crumpley
Charles Crumpley has been the editor and publisher of the San Fernando Valley Business Journal since March 2016. In June 2021, it was named the best business journal of its size in the country – the fourth time in the last 5 years it won that honor. Crumpley was named best columnist – also for the fourth time in the last 5 years. He serves on two business-supporting boards and has won awards for his civic involvement. Crumpley, a former newspaper reporter, won several national awards and fellowships for his work, and he was a Fulbright scholar to Japan.

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