Our View: How to get to ’yes’ | TheUnion.com

Our View: How to get to ’yes’

Societal changes can be slow, especially when it comes to morality.

The American temperance movement lasted for decades, culminating in 13 years of Prohibition that started 100 years ago. Today, dry counties still exist in parts of the nation.

So it is with marijuana. It wasn’t so long ago that the first lady issued the now infamous phrase, “Just say no.”

Times have changed. Our elected leaders aren’t looking to eradicate marijuana. They’re hoping to tax it. Cannabis is legal in California, and what government has ever turned away from a new source of revenue?

Nevada City sure didn’t, and it now boasts a clean, popular dispensary that — if the daily police blotter is any indication — has very few issues.

Despite its first attempt at pushback in the form of Measure W, Nevada County hasn’t avoided this new source of revenue either. Obey the rules and you, too, just might find yourself with a job in the legal cannabis industry.

Now it’s Grass Valley’s turn. But in this city’s case, it might have bit off more of the edible than it can chew.

That city’s November passage of a cannabis tax, when at that time no cannabis businesses existed, wasn’t just writing on the wall. It was a billboard with flashing lights. It’s obvious the direction Grass Valley is going with legal pot.

The vote tally wasn’t even certified when the Grass Valley City Council passed an ordinance allowing pot businesses in certain zones. Now, months later, it’s moving forward with an applicant screening process after OK’ing a fee of over $4,500 — regardless of whether they’re approved — for prospective businesses.

With a fee like that, you have to wonder whether Grass Valley really wants cannabis businesses here. How many potential businesses will remain illegal because of this cost? Why make it a lump sum, instead of what Diana Gamzon, with the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance, suggested, and break it up into two?

Is pot good? Or bad? Grass Valley is sending mixed signals.

A recent Civil Grand Jury report states that some 3% of growers have complied with the law and are legal. That leaves an estimated 3,500 to 4,000 illegal growers in Nevada County.

There’s a large middle ground between pricing someone out of the cannabis industry and making the rules so lax no one must make any change to become legal. Unfortunately, we’re still stumbling around trying to find that compromise. Elected officials see dollar signs, cannabis entrepreneurs see massive bills, and regular homeowners keep dealing with the wafting smell redolent of skunk.

Things will change, don’t doubt that. We need to ensure they change for the good.

First, Grass Valley needs to take Gamzon’s advice and break its fee into two parts. There is no guarantee a business will be permitted. It’s unethical for the city to take over $4,500 from each applicant knowing that many of them won’t make it to the next step. Have the first payment be around $1,200 — an amount much easier to handle if the business doesn’t advance through the process.

Second, the council needs to slow down. It’s diving into the deep end with little practice by opening the door to retail, delivery, nurseries, distribution, manufacturing, testing and delivery.

The Board of Supervisors went slow at the start, focusing only on cultivation. There’s an argument to make that supervisors still didn’t get it right. Just ask the guy who can’t open his windows during certain times of the year.

Based on that, why should Grass Valley tackle all of these business types at once? This legal industry is still in its infancy. We have plenty of time to get this right.

Finally, everyone needs to move forward with this effort in good faith. If growers are illegal, they need to be punished. Period. There are those who genuinely want to do this the right way, and are willing to put a lot of money on the line to do it.

Our cities and county need to have a set of rules and fees reached by compromise that, while some might not like, everyone can stomach.

We need to reach a point where most everyone has trust in the system, and is comfortable saying “yes” when it comes to our new, legal cannabis industry.

Because until we get to that point, there will always be those just saying “no.”

The weekly Our View editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com

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