Open records request depicts strong emotion for, against outdoor marijuana ban in Nevada County
March 9, 2016
The emails and phone calls poured into the Nevada County Board of Supervisors less than a week before its Jan. 12 vote on an immediate outdoor marijuana grow ban.
The emails came first, starting a few days before Jan 12. The phone calls began the day before the vote.
Writers and callers expressed strong opposition to the immediate ban. About 170 emails, not including several duplicates, advocated against the ban. Some 30 emails supported the effort.
Over 200 phone calls reached the supervisors' office. Three supported the ban, according to an open records request by Nevada City attorney Heather Burke and The Union.
“The quality of life at our home has been negatively impacted in very significant ways.”
— Supporter of outdoor marijuana grow ban
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"I do not think that Sheriff Keith Royal should be making laws," one email, sent Jan. 8, states. "His role is to enforce laws. I think he may be pushing you to vote for the ban, and you should vote according to your constituents' wishes.
"I do not see any 'emergency,'" the email continues.
Royal on Jan. 12 advocated for an immediate ban on outdoor grows and 12-plant limitation on indoor grows, citing a pending March 1 deadline that, if not met, would lead to the state overseeing local marijuana licensing. The board that day followed Royal's recommendation and approved an urgency ordinance implementing the ban.
The March 1 deadline has since been removed by the state Legislature.
The board also put the issue on the June 7 ballot. Supervisors have said they'll rescind the ban if voters turn it down at the polls.
Some supervisors have said they received feedback from the community in favor of the ban prior to their Jan. 12 vote. Supervisor Nate Beason said on that day he'd heard from many constituents, some of them young families concerned about living in a pro-grow county.
"We're not receiving those emails and phone calls only at the office," said Supervisor Dan Miller, board chairman, when asked about the open records request. "We're receiving them on our private emails and private phone calls. There's a lot more out there."
Miller noted that some 170 emails may express opposition to the outdoor ban, but that the board had received more feedback in support.
"There's a silent majority that's going to show up at the polls," Miller said. "There's more people out there that contact us.
"I stop at the grocery store, people say thanks for doing this," he added. "At the bank, people thank me. The tellers thank me. We put it on the ballot. We're letting people decide how they want their community to look. That's the democratic way."
Burke, who has represented local growers, said supervisors should keep their own records of personal contact if they intend to rely on them for a future vote. The board's decision to implement the ban and then put it on the ballot puts grow supporters in a difficult position.
"Why is the question 'Ban or no ban?'" she asked. "Why isn't the question something else?
"Do they have the right to do it? Absolutely," Burke added. "But was it wise? No."
The open records request asked the board clerk for communication to the supervisors between Dec. 30 — when the first story appeared in The Union about the sheriff's plan to ask for an ordinance change — and Jan. 12.
Supervisors began receiving emails around Jan. 8. The first phone calls came in Jan. 11.
The county redacted all personal information from the emails.
"The quality of life at our home has been negatively impacted in very significant ways," one pro-ban email states. "We do not feel safe in our home, the stench from the close-by grows is intolerable, the traffic on our community maintained road has increased ten-fold and the non-resident marijuana growers do not contribute to the road maintenance effort, creating a financial burden on us residents."
Another person stated he attended the Jan. 12 meeting, but couldn't get into board chambers. Instead, the writer remained in the lobby, where people could hear the proceedings.
"Most of these people attending were young," the email states. "I bet everyone is a liberal who demands their rights. However, most of the county population is old and came here to retire in peace and comfort. We will lose that population, and any more of them in the future if we do not stop this now."
Some emails in opposition to the ban detail the writers' medical and financial struggles. A few plead with the supervisors.
"I cannot afford the $3,500 Medicare wants for my chemo pills nor can I buy the medicine at a dispensary," one email states. "PLEASE don't write my death sentence."
"I hope you understand that most of your voters don't want this ban, and will vote accordingly," another states. "Our sheriff is way out of line with this."
Another writer asks Miller to limit the number of plants and allow outdoor grows.
"That way (the sheriff) can concentrate on the BIG growers that give small medicinal growers a bad rep," it states. "Make the fine heavy for them, let them pay for their greed, and leave us alone for growing 2 or 3 plants. And let us grow outdoors so you can fly over and count them!"
"You are who I want to protect," Miller replied.
Contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4239.