County conspires to stifle free speech |

County conspires to stifle free speech

Other Voices
Patricia Smith

Apparently, the Board of Supervisors (Terry Lamphier excepted) only wants to hear from constituents who agree with its policies. In a blatant attempt to intimidate opposition, 11 armed deputies were posted across the back wall and inside and outside the doors of the supervisors' chambers when collective cannabis gardens came up for discussion. All 27 items that preceded the Cultivation Ordinance were quickly dispatched without this unwarranted show of force nor were armed officers present for the afternoon session.

That they wanted to muzzle public comment was apparent from the opening remarks made by County Counsel Alison Barrat-Green. After reading the proposed amendments to the ordinance, she informed the public "only comments concerning collectives" would be entertained.

However, this only applied to the opposition, as the sole public supporter of the county's actions spoke about everything except collective gardens without reprimand from the chair, Hank Weston.

These actions were a clear attempt to stifle the free speech of political opponents. It sent a chill throughout the roomful of citizens who had peaceably assembled to address their grievances with the board. The one heated moment during the session occurred when a courageous citizen called out the Sheriff's Department for its aggressive behavior.

It is a fundamental human right to be able to use any medical treatment one chooses without interference from government bureaucrats.

The board was asked to amend the existing Cultivation Ordinance to acknowledge the right of patients to grow medicine together in a collective garden. Although the board unanimously passed the amendments, they refused to allow additional space to grow medicine for each collective member even in remote rural areas.

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Attorney Jeff Lake, representing Americans for Safe Access – Nevada County in its lawsuit against the county's ordinance, wasn't allowed to include other improvements to the Cultivation Ordinance during his public comments. Supervisor Lamphier asked for a motion to require the county to enter mediation, but was advised by Barrat-Green to "stick to the amendments before you."

The board has rejected ASA-NC's request for mediation and has opted instead to wait for the California Supreme Court decision in the City of Riverside v. The Inland Empire Patients Health & Wellness Collective. The court's decision will determine whether local jurisdictions can ban dispensaries and/or cultivation rather than regulate the operation and location of these establishments. A decision is expected by early May.

Americans for Safe Access has been conducting a phone survey to ascertain the level of support the Cultivation Ordinance has in this county. The results have been so overwhelming against the ordinance that we questioned the results even though we have used the same random sampling techniques and standards as those used by major polling organizations.

We decided to expand the survey by going into specific areas where we presume support for the county's ordinance runs high as a counter balance to the phone survey. We do not advertise the locations of our field surveys as to not draw supporters from either camp. If you happen upon one of our survey takers, we hope that you will take a moment to state your opinions regardless of your position. In fact, we welcome those with opposing viewpoints as we want to be inclusive of the entire county's attitudes.

For me, the issue is quite simple: Cannabis has been shown to be a very effective treatment for myriad conditions. It is a fundamental human right to be able to use any medical treatment one chooses without interference from government bureaucrats. By placing collective gardens in rural areas, most of the perceived nuisances can be eliminated. This would be a win for residential homeowners and a win for patients.

Patricia Smith is chair of Americans for Safe Access Nevada County. For more information, visit

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