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Retaking control of cannabis policy — good solution available

Personally? If someone could promise me I would never smell pot again, it would be 40 years too late. Nevertheless, as a matter of public policy, I will make a law and order argument in favor of limited commercial cannabis production in Plumas County. In order to take back control of cannabis policy, the Board of Supervisors should quickly enact an interim measure to “grandfather” the licenses of producers who had permits in this county in previous years. In essence, they should legislate the status quo of 2016.

Currently, the county is increasingly trapped between a pretense of re-established prohibition, on one hand, and a program of large-scale, sophisticated operations on the other. The MAUCO initiative of the Keep Plumas Green will be on the November ballot. It allows operations of up to 22,000 square feet, and has licensing requirements so demanding that small producers will have difficulty complying. Yet, legally, it cannot be changed by a single word before or after the vote, except by a new initiative. If MAUCO fails, the Moratorium wins by sheer inertia. It was enacted out of caution and to gain time, but a severe electoral showdown will harden the political lines and make it the default outcome. The pretense that prohibition is enforceable will become a shared illusion, doomed to fail.

The Board cannot change the ballot initiative, but it can preempt it politically by creating a better alternative than the Moratorium. Voters will be less likely to uphold a large, rigid block of regulation if there is a rational, realistic course of action under way.

Realistically, Plumas is probably a middle level cannabis producing county in California. For simplicity, past production can be thought of in three categories, legal small plots, illegal small plots, and cartel grows. There are numerous producers in the county who have dutifully complied with licensing requirements under the old medical marijuana law and, as a part of that process, identified themselves to the Sheriff’s Office. As an interim solution, the Board could “grandfather” those licenses to the same people (working in the same locations) who have operated them in the last few years. Done properly, this would achieve three things.

First, the legal producers would be limited to those who have already shown themselves responsible in the context of our community. Most Plumas County residents do not even know that there have been legal producers here for many years. If they are that innocuous, they can serve as models for what works here now. So, the Board should require reporting on water, pesticide, and fertilizer use, and a survey the neighbors.

If this has to be self-reporting, then so be it, but I would be surprised if this kind of research were not immune to FDA bans on studying the drug itself. There must be an enterprising Ag professor or grad student out there somewhere. Eight or nine months from now, Plumas County might become the only jurisdiction in America to make its cannabis decisions on the basis of hard data that applies locally.

Second, we could better manage the threat of crime by funding the fight against cartel production. My single greatest concern with attempting to reinstitute prohibition is that it plays into the hands of the cartels. For decades, the laws against cannabis have been all stick and no carrot, and use remains at about 10 percent of the population (one time experimenters, and former users would be much larger statistics). Trying to suppress production with less funding, and lower penalties can be expected to yield a predictably bad result. Illegal small production will expand, but growers will be reluctant to trust law enforcement to protect it from other sorts of crime.

This is a formula for inviting the cartel thugs to become, as the saying goes, “Police for people who cannot call the police.” That is the polite description for extortion, protection rackets, and the like. Powerful bad people will protect you from weaker bad people, and punish you if you resist buying their very expensive “insurance.” If we have a solid structure of fees and taxes, and direct that funding to law enforcement, legal production could help pay for its own protection and for vigorous action against the cartel producers in the forest.

Third, local rules could create positive incentives to responsible behavior. At least in the early years, all legally produced cannabis might be required to sell at specific times and places, the way tobacco and other commodities have been sold at auction elsewhere. In this way, testing could be uniform and public, prices open to inspection, security simplified, and taxes would be transparent and enforceable. Producers could also be required to meet standards of chemical purity, and if they failed, the crop would be destroyed on site. Growers could form self-insurance pools to protect against complete loss in the case of sabotage.

The advantage here is that local regulation could give local producers an edge that other areas do not have. Other areas and growers are competing to achieve reputations for quality on a product that is basically not good for your health. I gather that a large proportion of California cannabis fails chemical testing. If it comes from here (and the state “track and trace” program can be used to show origin), it will be certified safer than the rest of the market can promise.

To me, nothing is ever going to make sense out of tearing up vegetation, putting it in your mouth, and setting it on fire.  Also, I agree with Sheriff Hagwood that much depends on the attitude of the cannabis community. Giggly defiance has always been a part of the pot scene. If they now act like they can spike the ball in the end zone, no amount of sane, moderate reasoning is going to matter.

But reasonable measures are worth trying as part of the larger American recovery from an irrational drug control regime. For decades, cannabis has been put in the same class as heroin (and worse than meth). For decades, the powers that be have made us feel we had vigorous protection against dangerous drugs by arresting tens of millions of people for pot. For the same period, they have quietly promoted opioids that kill tens of thousands of American annually. Treating cannabis like alcohol and tobacco ends its function as the whipping boy of American drug control, and allows us to turn our attention and our taxes against the substances that are truly killing us.

27 thoughts on “Retaking control of cannabis policy — good solution available

  • We don’t need pot stores and weed growing warehouses in our small towns. It never goes well and always brings an unwanted element and crime. The very same people pushing this are trying to line their own pockets at the expense of Plumas County residents.
    Vote NO on MAUCO Measure B in November.

  • I had a pie in the sky hope that legal cannabis would make the cartels obsolete. I wonder what effect legal cannabis has or would have on the presence of cartels? To me, the damage and danger the cartels present far outweighs having a few pot smokers. The pot smokers will be there either way because outright prohibition never really works. The same thing goes for alcohol, guns, or whatever.

  • Where’s the logic in targeting medical majauna patients with abatement, fines and liens, while sheriff Bannon maintains a catch and release policy for heroin/meth dealers?

    • Tissue?

      • Tissues? Hehehe, but do please keep whining about lines at the DMV while supporting policies that have made plumas a sanctuary county for heroin/meth dealers.

        • How insensitive of me to not consider the feelings of a melting snowflake.

  • Yes. Nothing like the constant weeping and gnashing of Tax payer/voters teeth.

    Gets rather annoying doesn’t it?

  • I’m voting yes on measure B, because I believe in free market capitalism. Anything less is liberal nanny state bull crap.

  • This is well thought out, articulate and intelligent. I couldn’t agree more. Voting YES in November.

  • Look at who benefits if pot is kept illegal or made legal and regulated.

    Cartels benefit the most now and stand to lose the most if pot becomes legal. This is the same as prohibition which benefited bootleggers and organized crime at the expense of legitimate business.

    Going legal and regulated would just about put the cartels out of business overnight. Their business model would collapse because it’s based on a certain cost of production, distribution network, and price for the product. Legalization would drop the price, eliminate their distribution network with a far more efficient one and result in far lower cost of production. Economics would do what no amount of law enforcement could. The same was true when prohibition was…

    • Making pot legal and regulated has not put illegal growers out of business in Colorado, Oregon, Washington or California. Anecdotal evidence from law enforcement entities in those states is strong evidence that illegal activity is not reduced by legalization. Criminals adapt.

      • Study the history of alcohol prohibition. The fact the bootlegging, and the criminal elements associated with it, are all but a distant memory now is prof that legalization is an effective tool against cartels.
        Legalization did what law enforcement was never able to accomplish; law enforcement simply cannot be everywhere at all times. Legalization is economic warfare against destructive cartel grows, and history has proven it to be effective.
        How long do we beat a dead horse? Let’s try something that has been shown to be effective in the past.

    • That’s a dream.

      The cartels won’t be sending their dope in for testing or pay the cultivation taxes. Their product won’t be sold in the dispensaries and taxed there either Their product will be far cheaper and trust me, those east coast buyers don’t care. The cartel’s action won’t even skip a beat. In fact, given the high prices dispensaries are charging right not the cartel grows will most likely flourish even more.

      • Study the history of alcohol prohibition.

        • To be fair Tom, I agree that black market cannabis likely will remain cheaper. Everything is more expensive when purchased through the legal market; that is normal. Can you think of any legally available commodity that costs more when purchased through the black market? There is a black market for everything legal or not, everything you buy could be purchased cheaper through the black market. Someone somewhere is selling the device you typed your comment on for cheaper, but most likely you didn’t buy it through the black market. Why? Because like you, most people are willing to pay a little more to not take the risk and stress of arrest. You can still buy moonshine for cheaper than the legal equivalent, but almost no one does.

          • Due to safety and convenience, legally available products don’t have to be cheaper than the black market equivalent to out compete them.

      • “Study the history of alcohol prohibition. The fact the bootlegging, and the criminal elements associated with it, are all but a distant memory now is prof that legalization is an effective tool against cartels.
        Legalization did what law enforcement was never able to accomplish; law enforcement simply cannot be everywhere at all times. Legalization is economic warfare against destructive cartel grows, and history has proven it to be effective.
        How long do we beat a dead horse? Let’s try something that has been shown to be effective in the past.”

        -Heart of Plumas

  • The above said, I do not and never have used pot to get high and hope I never need it as a medicine. I won’t enjoy being next to a pot farm any more than I would a pig slaughterhouse or bone distillery.

    I sincerely hope people in this county can use their heads to think through this problem and do what we know worked with prohibition rather than what we have been told ought to but has been shown to fail.

    The war on drugs has been a miserable failure. Ultimately there will be no substitute for people to come to their senses and realize that they have to manage their lives and consumption of all products including pot. But that’s a long way off if at all.

  • Having a small and we’ll regulated local cannabis industry would greatly improve the current situation, which is presently dominated by fear, anger, and confusion. I suggest using the draft ordinance created by the Cannabis Working Group as a starting point. This was crafted by local residents working with the Board of Supervisors after a year of hard work. The BOS could make this process move forward ASAP if the BOS have the courage to act as leaders.

    • They are acting as leaders. Don’t have a fit because our board of supervisors has not and probably never will support your position. It’s up to the voters now anyway.

  • I agree that it would have been wise to allow the cannabis farmers and businesses in Plumas County to continue.

    As a member of the Working Group and the Co-Author of Measure B (MAUCO), I can promise you we did present that option, but were denied.

    The first commented says, “We don’t need pot stores and weed growing warehouses in our small town.” However, they were always here. Legally. There were 4 legal delivery services and many many cultivation locations throughout the County prior to the Prop 64 vote. All legal and supporting jobs and families. Those are all lost under current moratorium.

    The WG’s ordinance made Plumas a doormat for big business without concern for locals. That’s why I left the WG and wrote the Initiative.

  • MAUCO will not pass in November. Perhaps getting a real job instead would be a good idea?

    • “Perhaps getting a real job instead would be a good idea?”

      Says the person posting online at two thirty in the afternoon, lmao!

  • @Look Who Benefits….nicely stated and couldn’t agree more. Not to mention that our Law Enforcement could concentrate more on cartels if they were receiving grants from the state to help combat the cartels. The only way for Plumas County to receive extra funding from state cannabis taxes is to have a regulated market. When a county chooses a ban, they become ineligible to receive extra grants to combat illegal grows. I’ll be voting yes on Measure B.

  • Section 34019(f)(3)(C) of AUMA states that funds will be disbursed through the Board of State and Community Corrections “for making grants to local governments to assist with law enforcement, fire protection, or other local programs addressing public health and safety associated with the implementation of the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act.”

    However, the section goes on to state, “The Board shall not make any grants to local governments which have banned the cultivation, including personal cultivation under Section 11362.2(b)(3) of the Health and Safety Code [outdoors upon the grounds of a private residence], or retail sale of marijuana or marijuana products.”

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