Stephn Lewis: Prohibition an experiment that has never worked
There is already a county wide restrictive ordnance on cannabis cultivation. This was put in place just as the State of California was beginning to set up its own multi-agency cannabis regulations. This new state system will be very well thought out and complete. Some just shake their head and say “Big Government.” In some ways, yes. But similar laws already exist that are much the same as for any business: certification, oversight and taxes.
Big government — Yes, it’s big government. Small government cannot do the job. These are not new departments of governance. They are new utilizations of existing departments. The same folks who already oversee business, agricultural, transportation, and industrial activities. The cost of all this oversight will easily be covered by the taxes collected. In fact, the taxes collected in Colorado were so great that Colorado implemented new programs in education, and to aid the homeless. And there is talk of a rebate to the tax payer.
Welcome taxation — Why would cannabis growers welcome all these restrictions? Why would they be willing to apply for certification? Why would they be willing to pay taxes? Many of these farmers are second and third generation cannabis growers. They want to come out from the shadows.
They are part of the community. They want to stand up in their community. Show their pride in the craft and product they have nurtured with care. Yes, and pay their taxes.
Their product, cannabis will be taxed several times on the way to market. There will be certified trimmers, who will be paid above board, have withholding, and pay taxes. There will be factory settings with all the health and safety laws in place where extracts (honey oil for example) will be made. The product will have been tested, certified as pure and mold free. With all that, it be less expensive than it was a year ago.
Unenforceable — If this poorly conceived land use ordnance passes, Nevada County will be on its own. The state, and its considerable resources will not be available. The sheriff has said he is short 14 officers. He has requested and received an increase in his helicopter budget.
If this last year is an example of enforcement, the sheriffs office is not up to the job. The cannabis community estimates there are 3,000 gardens in Nevada County. They state that the number is a best “guess’tament …” that it could be far more. The sheriff’s office claims (but can’t confirm) that they got 250 complaints. The record shows they visited 126 gardens. Note … that is 126 gardens visited … not the number found in violation. That means the sheriff has responded to 4.3 percent of all the gardens in the county.
The county just does not have the resources (budget or man power) to enforce this misguided ordnance. Additionally, the small amount they might collect in fines will not cover the total cost of enforcement. At the same time they are giving up on the enormous amount of revenue that could be collected in taxes from this thriving business.
What emergency? — The Mexican cartels see a emergency emerging. Their business is shrivelling to near nothing. The outlaw poachers defacing our public lands see an disaster coming their way. The local farmer is seeing hope. The laws have changed and they see themselves coming out of the shadows. The chief of Nevada County Sheriffs saw an emergency. Sheriff Keith Royal convinced the board of supervisors there was an emergency. The only clear reason I’ve heard was, “to protect our community and way of life.” That seems vague on the surface, but it does have a tone we have heard before.
Medical? — Say medical cannabis in some circles and eyes roll, and people look away. One man said to me … “that calling it medical cannabis was the equivalent of saying ‘clean coal.’”
The mainstream press is full of news indicating that cannabis has therapeutic value. The consensus is cannabis is a valid medicine. The problem is that all the research is new. For all the years the prohibition was in effect no studies could be conducted. It will take time for Cannabis to gain credibility as medicine.
If W passes it will be very expensive to overturn. It will be overturned. It’s just a matter of time. There is increasing acceptance of cannabis. The trend is only moving in one direction. Prohibition is a social experiment that has never worked.
Stephn J. Lewis lives in Chicago Park.
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