I created PlumasFest, held Feb. 12 in Greenville, as a means to help heal our community around issues related to the legalization of cannabis in California. Regardless of whether one is pro, con or neutral, this transition for cannabis from black market to a well-regulated business is having a powerful, and sometimes painful, effect on all of us. I am happy to report that there was success at PlumasFest toward helping to heal some cannabis related wounds, for people on all sides of this issue.
To further address these fears, I will offer, during the coming 2018 growing season, to freely assist anyone who has a “neighbor problem” regarding cannabis cultivation. Whether the caller is cultivating cannabis, or has a problem with a neighbor who is cultivating, I will help if contacted. I am confident we can solve most of our problems with cannabis simply by acting as good neighbors.
Times of great change are also times of great uncertainty, and fear is a common human response to uncertainty. I have sadly witnessed fear expressed by persons on both sides. Simply stated, fear breeds more fear, until fear dominates and consumes all rational discourse. It would be so lovely if we could all just lay down our fears and talk as respectful citizens, but this simple Christian and neighborly approach is difficult for people consumed with fear.
When my wife, Judy Johnson, died tragically in the Canyon in 2010 after a large boulder collided with her vehicle, she left me with two great gifts: compassion and fearlessness. Her death forced me to recognize the compassion we need to appreciate the beauty of life, so that we can both give and receive compassion. Her death also showed me the transitory nature of life, and how we, with every breath, must follow our dreams.
Judy loved Greenville and Plumas County with a passion. She often expressed regret as our Plumas communities “slowly wasted away.” To bring new jobs to Greenville, she convinced me, in 2009, to leave retirement and re-start my MiniFlex Microphone business. Once Judy passed, I felt no purpose in life except to follow her dream, our dream, of bringing new life to our beloved town of Greenville. Armed with this new fearlessness, I expanded MiniFlex Microphones, opened a retail Music Store (MusicLand), started the Gift of Music Program to bring free arts and music education to the community, and I am now doing basic scientific research to explore developing new health products from cannabis … especially for pets and livestock.
Cannabis was an important part of a healthy life for me and Judy. It helped her walk away from a growing alcohol problem, and later proved to be an effective tool for helping to manage her pain as she aged. For me it was a soothing (and not addictive) balm after her passing.
My research with cannabis began last summer, after I was encouraged by a well-reputed business consultant to consider the many potential benefits of an expanded medical cannabis industry in Plumas County. For such research in 2018-19, I will need an acre of cannabis plants using eight to 10 different varieties (never being sold, only for R&D). Where will this raw material come from if everyone can only cultivate 6 plants?
My previous sentence referring to an “expanded medical cannabis industry in Plumas County” is significant. What the current Moratorium ignores is the fact that for the past 20 years, Plumas County has had an active and legal local medical cannabis industry effectively regulated by the local Sheriff’s Office, until, in February 2016, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to hand cannabis supervision to the Plumas Planning Department. Having failed to pass an ordinance governing commercial cannabis activities in Plumas County, the Board has recently decided to return regulation oversight to the Sheriff’s Office, but with the draconian prohibition of making all cannabis activities illegal except for personal six-plant grows.
This sudden flip flop by the Board of Supervisors has sent a ripple of fear through many Plumas County residents, and is a decision which I find to be cruel and unreasonable. These unreasonable restrictions hurt our most vulnerable community members, our sick, our elderly and our veterans who need low cost, or free medical cannabis products, and may be too ill to grow six plants for themselves. It also unfairly makes outlaws of otherwise law abiding cannabis cultivators who are begging the Board of Supervisors to pass a reasonable ordinance so the industry can be locally regulated, taxed and licensed.
Do we wish to show that we in Plumas County are a kind, compassionate and enlightened people? Or do we prefer to show ourselves as a people consumed with fear? Are those of us who call ourselves Christians really capable of showing compassion to the sick and elderly among us as Jesus taught? Or, will we be like all the “good people” who turned the other way when a fellow citizen was in need, and compassion was left to an outsider, a “Good Samaritan.” For myself, the only path I can consider is that of the Good Samaritan. The needs of my neighbors and community are far too important for me to cower before the forces of fear, ignorance or prejudice.
This is a moment where we need to step away from our fears, and trust the compassion of our fellow citizens. I invite every citizen of Plumas County to join me on this journey of trust and compassion. Together, we can mend our fences, heal our wounds and find common ground to move forward toward a better future for our entire community.