Martin Webb: Measure W: Turn the cement trucks around |

Martin Webb: Measure W: Turn the cement trucks around











In addition to volunteering with local groups that combat youth drug use, I was a part of the input process during the previous District Attorney’s crafting of cannabis cultivation guidelines in 2000, and invited by current DA Cliff Newell to provide input on updating county guidelines in 2007. I was also asked to join the Sheriff’s working group that created the first controversial cultivation ordinance in 2011.

As someone involved in county marijuana policy for 15+ years, based on being a straight shooter and looking out for the community’s best interests, I’d like to share my thoughts on Measure W. Please read the following and vote No on W.

UNMODIFIABLE —Ballot measures are only alterable by future ballot measures. Currently, marijuana policy is complex and changing. The feds defer to states, and states are deferring to localities. Giving the county the freedom to nimbly adapt to changes and make appropriate policy adjustments is the best way to maintain a fiscally responsible and vibrant representative-based local democracy.

Unfortunately, due to state law governing ballot initiatives, Measure W would instead set in motion an expensive and repetitive cycle of marijuana ballot measure after ballot measure for decades to come anytime local officials want to make significant adjustments to policy, and saddle future taxpayers with recurring costs of $70,000 to $150,000 every time.

Do you dislike the nastiness and divisiveness of the marijuana ballot measures held in 2014 and 2016? Well get used to it, as Measure W would leave a legacy that ensures all future meaningful cannabis policy will be decided at the voting booth acrimoniously during election cycles, over and over.

To keep up with local sentiment and state and federal policy changes, county regulations need to be written in affordable easy-to-modify clay (board-enacted ordinances), not expensive hard-to-change cement (voter-approved measures). Or think of it this way: you’re painting your home and pick a color that could be too shocking. You have two choices. The first choice is a paint that can easily, cheaply and quickly be painted over if you decide to change the color.

Choice two is a very expensive paint that can only be changed every two to four years and each time it costs you $70,000 (unless you want to change it at will, then double that price). Which type of paint would you experiment with?

UNNECESSARY and UNENFORCEABLE — A small fraction of gardens generate complaints, sheriff only visits a few dozen. Using recent regional studies and research, there are approximately 3,000-4,000 state-legal cannabis users locally, with total gardens in the 3,000-5,000 range. Based on data from the Sheriff, under the previous ordinance there were only 230-265 annual complaints filed in 2014-2015, down substantially from previous years.

So a small fraction of gardens — perhaps only 5-10 percent —are responsible for the nuisance complaints, while 90-95 percent of gardens remained complaint-free, requiring no county intervention. Our limited resources should focus on the minority that are the problem, not focused on making the majority a new problem that distracts from eliminating bad actors. Because even with around 250 complaints filed annually in 2014-2015, county data shows that at most only 126 compliance visits were made. With several thousand gardens, it is impossible to enforce Measure W if resources allow around 100 garden visits per year.

UNWISE — An outdoor ban introduces more problems to our community. Indoor gardens are hidden, allowing unscrupulous growers to discreetly turn homes into dangerous indoor grow labs with little evidence of what’s inside. Forcing growing indoors means more fire, mold, chemical, flooding and electrical hazards in our neighborhoods, placing homes at risk due to “Frankenstein” science experiment efforts at grow labs.

Safe permitted gardens under the rules of W are cost prohibitive for the majority of honest-to-goodness patients: $10,000-$20,000 to construct a separate permitted grow structure with permitted power and water lines, not to mention buying indoor grow lab equipment, and thousands in increased annual power bills? Don’t expect most to comply with W.

Word is outdoor growers are doubling or tripling their plant counts and garden locations, as a hedge against losing crops to the ban. If true, the ban is backfiring: it’s immediately increased the amount of pot grown, ironically making our problems worse.

In reality, if W passes, the average grower will likely either ignore pulling permits and cobble together a makeshift grow lab inside their home, continue growing outside and gamble (4,000 gardens vs. 100 visits?), or stop growing and support local criminal growers.

Turn the cement trucks around. Vote No on W.

Martin Webb is an 18-year resident of Penn Valley.

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