Our View: Discussion on impacts of marijuana cultivation should happen before we vote | TheUnion.com

Our View: Discussion on impacts of marijuana cultivation should happen before we vote

The Union Editorial Board

As Nevada County's supervisors this week made changes to language of the marijuana initiative scheduled for the June ballot ­— seeking to make the language of the measure easier to understand — they also unanimously stated that if the ballot measure fails, then they would repeal an existing ban on outdoor grows and work with stakeholders to develop regulations.

Such a "workshop" approach is what many of the growers, and many members of the community, have sought since supervisors put an urgency ordinance banning outdoor marijuana cultivation on their agenda in January.

But the problem is that they now first must defeat the supervisors' initiative at the ballot box to even have a conversation that we believe should take place before asking voters if they want to outright ban outdoor cultivation. Don't we have that backwards, as it currently stands? One supervisor seems to see it that way. And we would agree.

Supervisor Richard Anderson said he agrees with growers' concerns that the board moved too quickly when, on Jan. 12, it implemented an immediate ban on outdoor grows and limited indoor grows to 12 plants. He motioned for the board in the near future to consider repealing the ban and dispose of the June ballot measure. Instead he wants the board to work with growers on making new regulations.

Let’s educate ourselves and our children on the topic. Let’s act responsibly on all fronts. Let’s all aim to do the best possible job of understanding all aspects of these decisions and the impacts they will have on our community.

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"I do hear your comments and I do agree we have gone too quickly," Anderson said during Tuesday's meeting.

Of course the reason the board acted so quickly, according to supervisors and Sheriff Keith Royal, was due to a March 1 deadline for local counties and municipalities to pass their own marijuana regulations before the state would step in with its own rules.

Although the author of the law that mandated that deadline had repeatedly said throughout January that the deadline would be removed in Assembly Bill 21, Royal told supervisors on Jan. 12 that, according to his contacts, AB21 would sail through the first committee but was "dead on arrival" in the second committee and that — without passing the urgency ordinance — the board would be playing "Russian roulette" if it waited to see whether the deadline would be removed.

In fact, that bill not only sailed out of committee, but also through the State Senate (35 to 3) and Assembly (65 to 0), and was signed by Gov. Brown on Feb. 3, nearly a full month ahead of the March 1 deadline.

Had the board elected to do as their fellow supervisor suggested and further discussed the issue, perhaps community concerns on both sides of the issue could have been not only heard, but actually addressed instead of immediately implementing an outright ban.

Perhaps there could have been discussion on opportunities to mitigate the nuisances residents have reported in residing near outdoor cultivation. Perhaps medical marijuana patients could find other options to exercise their state rights under Prop. 215, in a community that has banned dispensaries, as opposed to making it even more difficult by forcing them to grow indoors at likely greater cost.

Perhaps the community could have begun a full conversation on what is acceptable and unacceptable in terms of cultivation. Because whether Measure W — the local initiative from the Board of Supervisors — is approved or not, outdoor marijuana cultivation is not going to disappear from Nevada County. The sheriff's increased budget for helicopter surveillance approved by supervisors this week would appear to acknowledge that.

And had they not hurried to implement an outright ban, perhaps there could have been a call by our community leadership, our elected officials, to request actual research be done on the local impacts — economic and social — of the decisions they are making on this issue. Considering not only the local election slated for June, but also the state election in November — which currently has multiple measures lined up to be on the ballot seeking yea or nay votes on legalization of recreational marijuana — should there not be full discussion on the potential impacts before community members cast their vote?

Let's educate ourselves and our children on the topic. Let's act responsibly on all fronts. Let's all aim to do the best possible job of understanding all aspects of these decisions and the impacts they will have on our community.

Now is the time for that discussion, not after the ballots have already been cast.

The weekly Our View column represents the opinions of The Union Editorial Board. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.