Heather Burke: Due to Measure W, united we now stand | TheUnion.com

Heather Burke: Due to Measure W, united we now stand

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Heather Burke

"I was not designed to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest."

—Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

We are living though one of the most widespread acts of civil disobedience in modern history, as the cultivation of cannabis is sweeping through California and beyond in numbers we can barely comprehend and in spite of any regulation attempting to stop it.

In Nevada County, Measure W would have done little-to-nothing to change this trend. At best, Measure W would have been a temporary vindication of the moral majority in a conservative retirement county, a moralistic approach that cannot be effectively enforced considering the sheer number of humans involved in cannabis cultivation.

With this newly united front, we’ve forever changed the face of cannabis in this community, and this beautiful face is here to stay.

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Thus, had W passed, the question would not have been whether the ban will someday fail, but when it would fail. Here's why:

First, young people overwhelmingly prefer regulation to prohibition. At minimum, the youth will someday rise to take the seats of county supervisors and, even better, the sheriff.

Moreover, the pro-regulation camps have undoubtedly benefited in spectacular ways that will catapult us into the next fight, whatever that may be. The greatest of these benefits is in the recent announcement that Nevada County has more registered Democrats that Republicans! I'm sure the sheriff had no idea that his pet project would motivate the most vibrant "Get Out the Vote" campaign ever seen in Nevada County, causing our historically red county to turn blue. Not only did the new Democratic majority affect the two supervisorial races also at issue last week, it undoubtedly will have drastic impacts for generations to come.

Another unexpected side effect of Measure W is that it provided a pathway for numerous No on W folks to rise to local and even statewide prominence. Jonathan Collier, for example, was relatively low key before Measure W, but has excelled in diplomacy, forging bonds with unlikely allies that I never thought possible. Diana Gamzon of the California Growers Association is another standout who whipped a disorganized bunch of No on W folks into a lean, mean, fundraising and public outreach machine. Mark Schaefer worked with the No on W Committee to raise a significant amount of funds for the PAC, a feat that few thought were possible considering the dearth of funds for 2014's Measure S.

The most compelling of this new generation of advocates is Forrest Hurd, a caring father whose articulate story about Measure W's clear harm to his son Silas' life has reverberated far outside the County. The list of these rising stars goes on and on.

The sheriff could have gone for the old fashioned "divide and conquer" method that some Bay Area cities are doing by giving out one or two permits, and then over-regulating those to death. But instead he chose to unite us with a singular goal, and spawned a quick rise of articulate, well-trained and energetic cannabis superstars. I could not have handpicked a better team of advocates to embark on the post-W journey with and, for that, I'm grateful to the sheriff for a new cadre of pro-regulation heavyweights he created.

Finally, it must be noted the pro-regulation community united against W in a way that we have never done before, because we never had to. Measure W thus provided the impetus for the rise of a focused and supportive cannabis community, a community that did not exist in this way before Jan. 12. Indeed, innumerable and life-lasting connections were made as our people rose to new levels together. With this newly united front, we've forever changed the face of cannabis in this community, and this beautiful face is here to stay.

Even had it passed, Measure W's impact would have been fleeting, as it could not stop the tides of reasonable cannabis regulation sweeping the nation. Had it passed, we would trod on, united. So to the future, place your strong hopes there.

Then get back to work.

Heather Burke is a Nevada City attorney.