Our View: Yes, more on marijuana in Nevada County
November 4, 2013
Surely there were more than a few eyes rolling this morning after they fell upon the front page of today's edition of The Union.
"Pot, again?" some readers likely said, scratching their heads.
The Union heard similar feedback from readers after recently publishing a story on how this year's cannabis crop is shaping up. Some readers wanted to know why The Union "promotes" marijuana on the front page of the newspaper, suggesting such coverage creates a sense of support for pot.
However, coverage of an issue should not be mistaken for promotion.
Marijuana is certainly not a new topic for Nevada County, but it is an absolutely important one that impacts far more than simply the person lighting up.
Just consider the economic impact of the underground economy of what many believe to be the county's top cash crop. Due to the nature of the business, few are willing to discuss publicly what they deem a somewhat taboo topic, which often leaves little more than anecdotal information on the actual local impact. However, area merchants regularly report substantially more cash transactions than those on credit and/or debit cards around the time of each harvest season, whether for a dinner check, a pair of shoes or even property tax payments. Growers and their hired harvest help, often referred to locally as "trimmers," do spend money here and likely provide an economic boost each fall.
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But the economic impact also doesn't end on the revenue side, considering the substantial amount of taxpayer dollars spent on the enforcement of both state law and Nevada County's cultivation ordinance, and the emphasis on enforcement of marijuana laws is often cited as resulting in less attention paid to more dangerous drug use, such as methamphetamine.
Of course, there are also many costs to be considered with cannabis beyond the dollars.
As outdoor growing has become more prevalent, perhaps as a result of the county's ordinance strictly limiting indoor grow space, reports of strong marijuana odor, increased traffic and unfamiliar faces — "suspicious strangers" — frequenting neighborhoods also grow more common with concerns of the criminal element attached to the illegal growing, selling and consumption of cannabis.
Great concern also remains on the impact of marijuana use on young people, whose brains are still developing. Agencies like Community Recovery Resources in Nevada County have voiced concern that increased access to marijuana for adults likely results in easier accessibility for teens and younger children, regardless of whether someone considers cannabis a "gateway drug." Others insist that legalization would result in more regular widespread use, leading to more "stoned" people behind the wheel on our community's roadways.
Some suggest the county's current economic benefit from marijuana amounts to a drop in the bucket in comparison to what it could reap, if the state of California were to legalize cannabis outright and tax it. With Colorado and Washington being the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, it will be telling to see just how each state's plan for regulating and taxing it turns out. In California, the American Civil Liberties Union has created a panel, headed by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, to draft a 2016 ballot measure for legalization.
In 2010, Prop. 19, a ballot measure to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana, failed with a 53.5 percent voting against to 46.5 percent in favor (in Nevada County, 55.6 percent voted against the measure). Two years later, the "California Repeal Cannabis Prohibition Act" failed to garner enough support to qualify for the 2012 ballot.
Considering the current conversation on cannabis in our community — a potential ballot measure here to change the county ordinance on cultivation and the manpower required to enforce its compliance — as well as the initiatives being proposed in California and in other states, The Union will certainly continue its coverage of the cannabis issue. And we are hopeful that more people are willing to come to the table for serious discussions, as we attempt to gain more information on its full impact within our community.
Our View represents the opinions of The Union editorial board, which is comprised of members of The Union staff, as well as informed members of the community.