Michelle Lewis: Alcohol good, marijuana bad? | TheUnion.com

Michelle Lewis: Alcohol good, marijuana bad?

If you’ve been paying attention to local politics, you probably already have your mind made up about Measure W. Undoubtedly if you’ve been reading The Union, you’ve seen opinion pieces by Sheriff Royal warning about the dangers of outdoor marijuana grows and the criminal element it attracts and urging a Yes vote on W.

On the other side, you have heard pleas from cancer patients and parents of children with intractable epilepsy, who have benefited from compounds derived from cannabis who would like you to vote No.

The Yes side has sought to win your vote using fear tactics and the No side has begged for your empathy and compassion.

There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground and our board of supervisors has said as much since they didn’t think it useful to try to negotiate a compromise between stakeholders. Instead they unilaterally decided to ban outdoor grows, in spite of much citizen testimony at meetings asking for a collaborative solution. In fact, in a moment of candor, Dan Miller even admitted that the board wanted voters to approve the ban so that future boards (supposing they might consist of younger, more liberal members) would not have the opportunity to overturn the ban and permit outdoor grows without voters approving a new ballot measure.

A few years ago the board passed an urgency ordinance at the sheriff’s behest, further restricting regulations for legal medicinal marijuana cultivation that California voters approved 20 years ago. Certainly this ordinance gave the Sheriff permission to eradicate sites that were out of compliance.

At public hearings, people testified about huge cartel grows in their neighborhoods. Both sides, anti-marijuana folks and small medicinal growers are united in wanting to rid Nevada County of these cartel grows, both for the dangerous criminals who tend them as well as for the disregard for environmental growing practices. With Google Earth, it’s no mystery where these sites are located, even if neighbors don’t turn them in. Why hasn’t the sheriff abated these grows?

I asked myself, “Why is everyone suddenly getting so troubled by marijuana cultivation when it has been ongoing in our county for over 50 years?” States to the north and east of us have legalized it for recreational use and that this fall Californians will have a chance to vote on a ballot measure to legalize it in our state.

My guess is that the California State Sheriffs’ Association drafted these guidelines prohibiting outdoor growing and limiting indoor grows, adding restrictions including permits, wattage of lights, number of plants, etc. And sheriffs in collaboration with local Boards of Supervisors have instituted these bans throughout California counties. The language of Nevada County’s ban is eerily similar to bans in adjacent counties and the ban overturned by the Sutter County Board of Supervisors.

So regardless of how people vote on the fall ballot measure potentially legalizing recreational marijuana in California, it will be a moot point in many counties, since local government will have preemptively instituted de facto bans on cultivation.

The pro and con arguments about marijuana have been endlessly debated. Research has shown promise with compounds derived from cannabis and some of your friends and neighbors have said that cannabis has saved their lives. No one says this about alcohol.

I would bet that I could invite members of our board of supervisors out for a drink and some would take me up on that and wouldn’t blink an eye. Yet, they are taking a moralistic stance about marijuana. As others have mentioned, Nevada County is expanding wine tourism in our area. Apparently our local powers that be consider alcohol good and marijuana bad.

I find it ironic that the same people who decry big government want to meddle with people growing a few plants in their back yards. What is next? Getting a permit for growing corn? Forcing us to grow only GMO vegetables?

I guess my biggest objection to this governmental overreach is that it will distract the Sheriff’s Office from doing more important things, such as preventing the spread of heroin, methamphetamine and prescription drug abuse. Why hamstring our law enforcement with monitoring people who grow a few plants to ease cancer symptoms?

Disclosure: I smoked a fair amount of pot in my youth, but at this advanced age, I have little use for it because it makes me want to take a nap. I do indulge in a nice glass of wine or two at dinner time a few nights a week.

Michelle Lewis lives in Penn Valley.

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