On July 3, Americans for Safe Access-Nevada County filed the necessary paperwork to petition for a special election that would allow the voters to decide the fate of medical marijuana in Nevada County. How fitting that the revolution should start on the day before Independence Day!
Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, our supervisors (Terry Lamphier excepted) refuse to acknowledge that a large majority of our citizens do not support their Cannabis Cultivation Ordinance. Our initiative would replace the current county ordinance with regulations that revert to state-sanctioned plant counts instead of using square foot restrictions to determine whether a grow is compliant.
The initiative process is what makes our form of government work. It allows ordinary citizens the ability to bypass elected officials by putting a ballot measure before the voting public.
It’s no easy task to qualify for a special election. We must gather enough signatures to equal 20 percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial race. That equates to just under 10,000 voters, but to be safe, we plan to err on the side of caution by collecting 13,000 signatures. Although we have six months to qualify, we collected 10 percent of the necessary signatures just two days into our campaign. I don’t want to be overly optimistic, but at this rate, we will have more than enough signatures within a month.
A special election is costly (estimates range between $166,000 and $200,000), and as a taxpayer, I resent that we have been pushed to this extreme measure because the board of supervisors has continually refused to address our grievances. We would be happy to wait for a general election if the county called a moratorium on enforcing the current ordinance, but we cannot sit by for two growing seasons while the health and wellbeing of patients is being compromised.
As you may recall, the Cannabis Cultivation Ordinance was passed as an “emergency” ordinance. The board acknowledged that it was imperfect and stated that we could fix the problems later. Sheriff Royal stated repeatedly that enforcement would be complaint-driven and his department would only go after “the big growers.”
Instead, without any discussion or another vote by the supervisors, Sheriff Royal has announced a “zero-tolerance” approach toward medical marijuana grows. Calls have been pouring in from cultivators who were only growing six or 12 plants who have received visits from the Sheriff’s task force. The Sheriff’s Office has become our best recruiting tool!
To emphasize the inconsistency of the county’s stated purpose of protecting the health of our citizens (by passing the Cannabis Cultivation Ordinance), a recent piece on YubaNet.com about the environmental degradation caused by illegal marijuana grows in our national forests brought up some interesting points.
The Forest Service stated that it knows of 315 large grows hiding in forests located within the borders of Nevada County. These grows are supposedly using large amounts of pesticides that are getting into our water supply. Why on earth aren’t they systematically going after these grows that are causing the problems instead of harassing medical growers who follow organic gardening practices? I believe that would be a much better use of taxpayers’ money.
At the May 27 board of supervisors meeting, Sheriff Royal stated that his department had received more than “100 complaints” this year. I hate to call the sheriff’s integrity into question, but really! Only a handful of cultivators had their plants in the ground in May, and any plant that was in the ground that early would have been so small that it could not possibly be visible to the public or cause an odor problem.
Supporters of ASA-NC will be all over town for the next month collecting signatures for our petition to schedule a special election. Please visit our website to find where we will have our tables set up on any given day (http://asa-nc.com).Everyone is invited to the Voter’s Revolution! No vote, no voice.
Patricia Smith is chair of Americans for Safe Access Nevada County.