Bob Hren: Clarity is needed on Measure W
I read with dismay the publisher’s column last week on Measure W. I can understand that as a newcomer, he did not yet have time to digest what this dispute is about. But what really upset me is that it was written in a cavalier style and this admittedly confusing but very important subject was left even more confused.
The article stated yes is no, and no is no and so forth. Many arguments of the pro grow activists were cited and short shrift was given to the legitimate complaints and environmental damages done by grows, not to mention the additional crime.
Activists in favor of unrestricted outdoor grows know exactly how to vote on this matter. However, the vast majority of county residents are opposed to the outdoor grows, as evidenced by the overwhelming vote on Measure S in 2014. The result of that confusing column is that many voters will be guessing about which way to vote, thus neutralizing many voters who are opposed to the nuisances of outdoor grow and who may vote the wrong way from their intent, or may simply abstain from voting.
Let me address some of the misleading points of the article. It was stated that the opponents to outdoor grows hate marijuana. This has nothing to do with loving or hating marijuana. This matter is also not a style of governance issue.
There has been significant and tragic damage done by the illegal outdoor grows. I urge The Union publisher to sit down with the sheriff and NID director. Acres of our lovely forests have been clear-cut, graded, trashed, and then abandoned, all without permits. Water has been stolen and our streams polluted with pesticides, sediment, diesel fuel spills and toxic fertilizer runoff. Animals have been poisoned and their carcasses left to rot and pollute. Our mountain air has been fouled by the noxious odors of ripening marijuana. Illegal growers brandish weapons at anyone who comes near, and set traps to physically injure any intruders. Unarmed NID workers are threatened by powerful weaponry when they inspect the water supply ditches that are the usual source of stolen water for illegal grows. The crime rate has risen significantly in the county.
This is not about medical marijuana grows. Most of the marijuana grown is as a cash crop, done illegally, under the cover of inadequate regulations that existed before Jan. 12, 2016. This environmental damage, pollution, crime and threat of injuries is all about making big money, not medicine.
The column alludes to illegal grows that have not been abated by the sheriff, and states that illegal outdoor grows will continue. That shows a lack of understanding of the recent history on the topic. The previous regulations were ineffective in regulating legal and illegal grows.
Grows were discovered easily enough from fly-overs or complaints, but when the grower was confronted by the sheriff, they would produce (usually bogus) medical marijuana grow permits. That delayed abatement until these permits could be verified, allowing the grower to either harvest the crop or move the grow bags to a different site, thus preventing any abatement.
In contrast, by banning all outdoor grows under the existing ordinances (and Measure W), abatement can and will be done immediately upon arrival of the sheriff to an outdoor grow site.
All the talk by the growers, and echoed in your article, of prohibition historically not working is also off the mark. This is not about prohibiting medical marijuana or recreational use of marijuana. This is about needed and legitimate regulation of a serious nuisance. The regulated and legal indoor growing of medical marijuana allows much more to be grown than is needed for that purpose.
The Union reporters and editorial staff have been disingenuous on this topic for some time. One of the messages that is continually repeated by The Union staff writers, and the growers, is to cite the number of comments/complaints received by the supervisors during the two-week period prior to adopting the current ordinance on Jan. 12. Those comments were, of course, dominated by growers opposed to the impending new ordinance. That data ignores the many complaints received by the supervisors in the prior two-year period. Those complaints would not have been made in the dead of winter, but during the prior growing seasons.
Let me make it clear to the readers: to stop illegal grows, to reduce the nuisances, crime and environmental damage, vote Yes on Measure W.
Bob Hren lives in Nevada County.
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