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Heidi Hall: High time for cannabis common sense

Heidi Hall
Heidi Hall
Submitted photo | The Union

Last week, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy acknowledged that marijuana can be helpful for some medical conditions, and that he looks forward to getting more data on this.

California’s legislature is looking at no less than seven bills looking at various forms of medical or “adult-use” legalization.

At least one initiative on marijuana legalization is certain to be on our 2016 ballot.

Growing and using marijuana is here to stay. The only question is how we are going to regulate it. I want to see us keep real criminal elements in check, protect our water resources from overuse and pollution, ensure quality medical uses, have strict controls to keep it out of the hands of youth, and keep corporate growers from taking over. It would also be great if we could license such growers, and use tax revenues to help fund our regional needs.

Growing and using marijuana is here to stay. The only question is how we are going to regulate it. … Locally, I’d like us to develop an ordinance that would make it easier for small, conscientious growers to comply with what the state allows while ensuring public safety.

Locally, I’d like us to develop an ordinance that would make it easier for small, conscientious growers to comply with what the state allows while ensuring public safety.

It is time. Cannabis has been grown in Nevada County and a dozen other North State counties for decades. We derive great benefit from the money generated and spent locally. We also encumber costs in trying to control its growth and enforce a variety of violations of the law. And yet we have taken no steps to prepare for its legalization.

The truth is that this major California crop, which according to the California Crop Improvement Association (CCIA) creates an estimated 100,000 jobs statewide, is already a major driver to our state economy, especially in the North State. Based on data compiled by ArcView, a San Francisco based marijuana research and investment firm, California has the largest state market at an annual $980 million. Instead of benefiting from its existence, we are wasting precious resources arguing past each other.

I know this is a tough issue for politicians. Yet it is increasingly important to address. It is time for our board of supervisors to provide leadership and save us another endless round of costly funded cannabis ordinance fights. Our taxes should be better spent.

Our existing county ordinance was adopted as an “urgency ordinance” without true public discussion or input. The argument was that the grow season was about to begin and an ordinance was needed “urgently.” This ill-considered ordinance has resulted in confusion, and makes it difficult for good faith growers to meet its conditions. This is not good enough.

Now we have a new nonprofit, ostensibly nonpartisan group joining the fray — Nevada County Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). The group does not include anyone actually involved in the cannabis market and appears to be a partisan, anti-legalization group. Based on the national website, it is likely to rely on fear-based politicking rather than actual problem solving. This isn’t going to be helpful.

This is not rocket science. A good ordinance can work to help small growers comply with the law, end problems with nuisance complaints, and focus our law enforcement personnel on truly criminal elements and environmental violations in the trade.

Playing politics with this issue is nuts. There is only one way to create a reasonable, understandable and enforceable medical marijuana ordinance. That involves a respect-based discussion including advocates of all sides of the issue. It will require a willingness to check egos and agendas at the door and commit to a solution.

If you haven’t heard of the Emerald Growers Association (EGA), you will soon. It is a member-based trade association of medical cannabis cultivators, business owners, and patients that emphasizes community solutions and focuses on public safety. It strongly supports the enforcement of environmental and violent crimes and condemns “trespass grows”. Let us bring them into the conversation too.

Let me be upfront here, I have no skin in this game. I have no involvement in the cannabis industry and do not use marijuana in any form or for any reason. But I am a taxpayer and I want this issue handled.

It is a new year and the grow season is a few months away. Let us establish a real, ongoing commission to move forward on a reasonable and enforceable ordinance.

Let us invite the sheriff and the leaders of Americans for Safe Access, community farmers, advocates, and those with concerns about growing. Let us invite the people actually working on solutions, such as the EGA. Ask a neutral and respected party to lead this effort. Show some leadership and cooperation and create an adult solution about reasonable cannabis growth in this county. That is the kind of leadership I expect of my elected representatives.

Heidi Hall lives in Grass Valley. Contact her at heidihallnevadacounty@outlook.com.


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