George Boardman: North state among national leaders in marijuana consumption |

George Boardman: North state among national leaders in marijuana consumption

George Boardman
John Hart/ | The Union

Observations from the center stripe: Luxury edition

DOES NEVADA UNION really need a football stadium scoreboard that costs $234,000? I can think of a lot more important things the boosters can spend the money on … JUST IN time for the start of school, we’re seeing a spike in whooping cough cases … THE U.S. women’s gymnastics team is a portrait of our racial diversity: Two whites, two blacks and a Latina … YOU’RE GETTING all of that gymnastics coverage in prime time because that’s one of the few sports women will watch; men will watch almost anything … NBC SPENT almost $1.5 billion for the broadcast rights to the Rio Olympics, and they apparently tried to recoup the money from all the ads they ran during the opening ceremonies … IT HASN’T started yet, but you’ll hear complaints that NBC is devoting too much time to coverage of American athletes. Who do the critics think American viewers want to see? …

This part of California doesn’t lead the nation in much of anything, except when it comes to the cultivation and use of marijuana.

The Emerald Triangle around Humboldt County grows more pot than any other part of the U.S., and the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows the north state is among the leaders in pot consumption.

Researchers asked 204,000 people 12 years of age or older in 2012-14 about their use of marijuana, which SAMHSA’s scientists view as a growing public health problem. According to them, 4.2 million Americans abuse or are dependant on pot, the second leading substance for which people are treated in the country. (Alcohol is No. 1.)

Some 7.7 percent of people surveyed nationally reported using pot at least once in the previous month. The West led the rest of the country at 9.7 percent, and San Francisco had the highest use among all subregions at 15.4 percent. The highest use in California was in region 1R — the 15 counties north of Nevada County to the Oregon border. Residents of what some hope will become the State of Jefferson reported smoking pot at a rate of 12.9 percent to 15.5 percent.

This wasn’t just the Emerald Triangle — we’re talking about the whole area. Nationally, only certain parts of Colorado reported higher usage, which helps explain why recreational pot is now legal in that state.

Nevada County wasn’t far behind our neighbors to the north. The researchers included us in region 2R, where 11 percent to 12.9 percent of the residents said they smoked pot at least once last month. That puts us on a par with the parts of the Bay Area that don’t include San Francisco. So much for escaping the evils of the metropolitan area!

Not surprisingly, usage is highest where people think pot does little harm to their well-being. Nationally, 28.5 percent of those surveyed perceived pot as posing a risk to their health. In the survey areas covering Nevada County and those to the north, the range was 21.7 percent to 25.6 percent. Apparently the effort to educate our youth about the evils of pot isn’t working.

The survey suggests that the state proposition on the November ballot to legalize recreational pot should enjoy strong support in the north state. If the proposition does fail, backers of Jefferson will have a ready-made message that is sure to draw support.

But I doubt the law-and-order types who yearn for a return to simpler times will embrace this strategy.

Our tax dollars

One of the ways legislators waste money is to prepare and distribute — at our expense — loaded surveys designed to produce the results your elected representative wants.

The transportation survey we received last week from Sen. Ted Gaines is a good example of this sledge-hammer approach. Gaines precedes the five questions in the survey with a “Dear Friend” note to constituents.

He points out that California has the fifth highest gas taxes in the country, but road conditions that are ranked the sixth worst. Gaines states that $1 billion a year in truck weight fees goes to the general fund instead of repairing roads. As luck would have it, question No. 3 asks: “Do you think truck weight fees should be returned to road building before the state raises any new transportation funds?”

Then there’s the legislative analyst’s estimate that Caltrans is overstaffed by 3,500 positions, “wasting about $500 million a year that could go to repairing roads and cutting down traffic.” You can probably guess what question No. 4 wants to cut.

I’m not going to wait for the press release announcing the survey results because I think I know what it’s going to say. If Gaines actually wants to accomplish something, he should put the same amount of effort into securing funding for repair of the Bridgeport Covered Bridge.

That will actually give him something to brag about the next time he makes one of his rare personal appearances in western Nevada County.

Clueless owners

Supporters of the right to bear arms like to point out that law-abiding gun owners don’t commit crimes. What they don’t like to discuss is the fact that many of the guns used in crimes come from careless and irresponsible law-abiding gun owners.

More proof of that was presented recently by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, who teamed up with the city’s police department to trace the origin of all 893 firearms recovered from crime scenes in 2008.

In about 80 percent of the cases, the perpetrator was in illegal possession of a gun that legally belonged to someone else. About 30 percent of the guns were stolen, but more than 40 percent of them had never been reported as stolen. Most astonishing to me, 62 percent of the owners of the stolen guns didn’t know where or when they lost possession of the firearm.

The researchers found plenty of evidence that many guns on the black market got there via straw purchases. In the Pittsburgh study, 41 percent of the people who were identified as the legal gun owner didn’t respond to police attempts to contact them. And it appears that most of those guns are being purchased from just a few gun stores. A 2000 report from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms found that in 1998, 60 percent of guns used in crimes came from 1 percent of the dealers.

But Congress has made it extremely difficult to put these dealers out of business, and only 10 states and the District of Columbia require gun owners to report stolen weapons. It’s past time to enact laws that hold irresponsible gun dealers and owners accountable for their actions.

George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays by The Union. Write to him at

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