Anyone who has listened to or owned a copy of Dr. Dre’s iconic The Chronic or 2001 album, or anything by N.W.A, knows that Compton, Calif., is the home of West Coast gangsta rap. Dre and company put Compton on the map, along with other acts such as DJ Quik—and, more recently, Kendrick Lamar.
But the city that has been popularized by images of gangsters and weed smoke is in the process of rebranding itself, and as part of that rebranding, Compton wants no part of the new California recreational-marijuana market.
Voters “overwhelmingly” rejected proposals to allow the sale of both medicinal and recreational (adult use) marijuana in Compton, according to the Los Angeles Times. Despite the tax revenue that marijuana sales could bring to the city, some are worried about the effects on the community and the message that legalization could send.
“Drugs have pillaged black and brown communities,” James Hays Jr., a 61-year-old community activist who opposed legal pot in Compton, told the Times. “It has taken all of our talent away from us. It makes our neighborhoods bad neighborhoods to live in.”
It would have cost the city an estimated $6 million just to hire enough staff to process applications and beef up law enforcement, according to Councilwoman Emma Sharif—the lone council member to vote against both measures.
“The voters in Compton decided this decision was the healthiest and most forward-looking for our community,” Sharif said. She also expressed concern that the all-cash marijuana businesses could lead to robberies or worse.
“I don’t believe bringing marijuana into the community would’ve been good for the community,” she said.
Petitioners in Compton gathered more than 8,500 signatures to get Measure I on the ballot, forcing a Jan. 23 special election. The initiative was backed by the cannabis industry and asked for a 5 percent sales tax, seven to 10 dispensaries and indoor marijuana cultivation to be allowed in the city.
In response, the city drafted its own bill that would have increased the sales tax to 10 percent, banned commercial cultivation, included local hiring mandates, called for stricter zoning and specified that a maximum of 10 dispensaries would be allowed in the city.
Neither measure passed.
Dermot Givens, an attorney specializing in marijuana licensing, told the Times that Compton voters wanted to distance themselves from the city’s history rather than cash in on it.
“They want to be the all-American Compton,” Givens said, but “everybody in the world knows that if you go to Compton, there are gangs and weed. True or not true, that’s the image.”
Givens believes that the city should have cashed in on its history and become known for its weed.
“Compton should want to capture the marijuana market and brand it just like the wines and Champagne,” he told the Times. “Claim it. We got the best weed in the world. They would make a fortune. Like cognac,” referring to the brandy and eponymous region in France where it originates.
I get Compton wanting to rebrand itself. The city has a bad reputation, one that it wants to outgrow in order to attract new residents and business opportunities. There has to be a way to do that, however, while still allowing opportunities such as recreational marijuana to flourish in the city.
For now, the only chronic Compton will be known for is the Dre album with the same name.