George Boardman: One more opinion about Measure W
June 1, 2016
If you're finally getting around to registering to vote in the June 7 primary (today is the last day), it's probably because you're fired up about the ballot proposal to suspend state legislators without pay if they're bad boys and girls.
Just kidding. You're probably registering now to express your opinion of Measure W, the ban on outdoor cultivation of "medical" marijuana. It's about the only thing people are talking about, with the possible exception of the hard-fought reelection campaigns of Assemblyman Brian Dahle and Supervisor Richard Anderson.
Everybody loves a tawdry tale, and the story of how Measure W came to be qualifies: Backroom politics, a clumsily staged imitation of democracy in action, legal gymnastics to get a measure on the ballot, and misleading arguments from both sides. Now the voters get to decide which version of the "truth" they prefer.
This local melodrama started to unfold last October when Sheriff Keith Royal revealed that several supervisors had expressed an interest in revisiting the issue of marijuana cultivation to "more accurately relate what's occurring … In the early part of next year we'll explore what actions may be pursued … In my opinion, it's out of control."
In case it wasn't clear what would happen next, Royal called in December for an outright ban ("It's just my opinion") and said he would recommend to supervisors in January that they ban the outdoor cultivation of medical marijuana. Not willing to let the grass grow under their feet, the supervisors were ready with an emergency ordinance to ban outdoor grows, limit legitimate medical use to 12 plants grown indoors, and put the measure on the June ballot.
As luck would have it, that's exactly what the sheriff recommended after staging an elaborate dog-and-pony show at the supervisors' Jan. 12 meeting. Were any public hearings held before the ordinance was drawn up? Well, no. Was an attempt made to bring the opposing sides together? They're too far apart, said the supes. (It makes you wonder how the state was able to bring the various factions together to pass the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act.)
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MMRSA also created the urgency to pass an "emergency" ordinance. The legislation set a March 1 deadline for counties to establish medical marijuana guidelines before the state set the rules for them, a deadline that was going to be changed by a new bill working its way through the state Legislature, AB 21.
Royal reported the bill passed the Assembly but was dead in the Senate — he cited the county's lobbyist for this intel. Well, the bill was able to rise from the dead to pass the Senate and be signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. I guess miracles will never cease to occur.
The supervisors were apparently in such a hurry to get all this done that they took the Nancy Pelosi approach and passed the "emergency" ordinance and call for an election without fully understanding the documents, and were forced to clarify the language of the measure that will appear on the ballot and their intent if it fails.
Chairman Dan Miller said later the measure was put on the ballot because if it passes, it can only be repealed by another vote of the people. That will make it tougher to repeal if a bunch of liberals get elected to the board (don't laugh, it's happened before).
Supervisor Ed Scofield, currently seeking reelection to a third term, insists Miller's wrong — the vote was called so citizens can decide the issue. Scofield supports W and has said in the past he's confident it will pass.
Whatever the motivation for putting W on the ballot, a no vote won't reverse the ban on outdoor cultivation of pot. The supervisors have said that if the measure loses at the polls, they'll work to find a compromise. But given their lack of enthusiasm for such give-and-take in the past, you have to wonder how sincere they are.
Still, there is a case to be made for clamping down on medical pot, regardless of the sincerity of its proponents. People who live downwind of grows don't appreciate the smell, bad actors steal water and do significant damage to the environment, processed pot and large amounts of cash are magnets for bad guys, and the growing popularity of honey oil labs means a resident could have the equivalent of a suicide bomber living next door.
We've known for years that pot is no good for adolescent brains, and now comes a report that heavy users of cannabis wind up in a lower social and economic class than their parents. People who "didn't use cannabis over many years ended up in a higher social class than their parents," according to researcher Magdalena Cerda of the UC Davis Health System.
Public supporters of medical pot say they want to work within the law and aren't the bad actors, but I'd be interested to hear about cases where they have pointed out these bad actors to the sheriff's office. It's hard to make the case you're a good citizen when you condone lawless behavior.
Still, there is a case to be made for the medicinal benefits of marijuana, and it's clear from the political and social trends that pot will soon be legal in California. It's also hard to make a case against the weed when we tolerate two of the leading causes of death, alcohol and tobacco.
Pot is not going away regardless of what happens June 7, and the supervisors are to be faulted for taking the politically expedient way out instead of coming to grips with reality and forging a compromise both factions can live with.
The supervisors say they're concerned about the quality of life in our little corner of paradise. Well, if W passes — and I believe it will — the drug dogs won't disappear from our schools, campuses will remain closed, drug money will continue to prop up our anemic economy, honey oil labs will just be driven farther underground, and we will still have a higher-than-average suicide rate.
Put that in your bong and smoke it.
George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays by The Union.