No matter what you do, it’s Tent City for you

Could California’s economic crisis be the shit sandwich that puts reefer back on the menu?

Tom Ammiano, a San Francisco Democrat recently elected to the state legislature, announced that he was introducing a bill that would “tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol” in the state of California. According to Mr. Ammiano, Assembly Bill 390, which would impose a tax of $50 per ounce on marijuana sales, “would generate $1 billion in new revenue” for the state if it is enacted — and that’s a big “if.”

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that there is some backing for Mr. Ammiano’s proposal from state officials whose duty it is to enforce the current laws against marijuana, as well as from those who must balance the state’s books:

Ammiano’s proposal has the support of San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey, who said the idea “should be the subject of legislative and public debate.”

It also has the backing of Betty Yee, who chairs the state Board of Equalization, which collects taxes in California. An analysis by the agency concluded the state would collect $1.3 billion a year from tax revenues and a $50-an-ounce levy on retail sales if marijuana were legal.

Meanwhile, down by the river, tent city is thriving outside the state capitol:

Tent cities — much like the “Hoovervilles” of the Depression — have sprung up elsewhere around the country. But Sacramento, with one of the highest foreclosure rates, has one of the biggest, with a population of “easily 300,” said Rob Fong, a Sacramento city councilman, and it is “definitely growing.” “It’s an unfortunate sign of the times,” he said.

This tent city is in a place of great natural beauty, between two rivers, with birds and open sky and a relatively mild climate. Homeless people have lived there for years, largely unseen, but as more working class people move in, the tents are multiplying and becoming harder to ignore.

The official count of homeless people in Sacramento is 1,226 people, and they are spilling out to the tent city because the housing shelters are full; one of the shelters is turning away more than 200 women and children a day.

The same article states that 10% of Sacramento’s rental housing is vacant, along with 5% of owned homes. Despite this glut of available living space, the mayor is talking about making tent city a permanent settlement (in other words, adding toilets).  You can’t just put these people in proper homes, because, you know, “it’s private property”.