High stakes, low politics

November 01, 2014 | Kris Hermes

Patricia Smith, The Union (Op-Ed)

With the election just days away, I know many of us are experiencing voter fatigue. Vote for this, don’t vote for that. Vote for me, don’t vote for my opponent.

No matter how burned out you are from all the rhetoric, voting is still our most cherished and valuable benefit as citizens of this great country. We fought for the right to vote and we continue to fight wars to protect that privilege. Making sure every citizen has a voice is the bedrock of our republic.

That is why the actions taken by our elected officials and county staff against Measure S are so disturbing. By using County resources funded with taxpayer’s dollars, they have abused their offices to derail Measure S, a voter’s initiative.

A voter’s initiative is recognized as the highest form of law superseding laws passed by the Board of Supervisors, the legislature, and even the State Constitution because our lawmakers recognized the effort it takes to qualify and pass an initiative.

Elected officials are supposed to represent all of their constituents — not just those that agree with them. ASA-NC collected over 16,000 signatures (although we only turned in 10,300 after vetting the invalid signatures). When I asked one supervisor how many people he had heard from that opposed Measure S, the answer was 70! I don’t think you need to be a math major to see the inequity of those numbers.

If the County had expressed the slightest interest in working with us to create a compromise initiative, we wouldn’t have had to file an initiative. For 2 1/2 years, they have steadfastly refused to alter even the smallest provision in their ordinance. Worse, our elected officials and county employees have used misleading statements to confuse voters about the ramifications of passing Measure S.

Since they cannot refute the medical benefits of marijuana, opponents have used Reefer Madness fear tactics better aimed at illegal drug cartel growers to make their case against Measure S. I have even been accused of being a front for these profiteers!

ASA’s record speaks for itself. Our national organization has helped patients for several decades by holding numerous seminars, workshops, and trainings to teach patients the latest breakthroughs in medical research and organic growing techniques. On a local level, we help patients plant their own gardens, find them suitable stains to treat their ailments, and show them how to grow and safely harvest their medicine. We do not teach seminars on increasing profits or how to get away with breaking the law.

Whether we like it or not, legalization is coming to California probably as early as 2016. We don’t yet know what the final draft of the initiative will look like, but I’ve been assured that it will contain language that will make the measure statewide rather than allowing each county to decide whether they will allow cultivation or dispensaries in their districts. (It would take a vote of the people to pass a County ban.)

When the legalization initiative passes, the county’s ordinance will become obsolete, but Measure S would stand and it will protect our County from large commercial operations moving in to capitalize on our excellent growing conditions. The state of Washington is issuing cultivation permits for 21,000 acre grow sites. Is this what we want for Nevada County?

Don’t be fooled into thinking that all heck will break loose if Measure S passes. Much has been made that our initiative does not contain enforcement measures. Enforcement was intentionally left to the County to enact whatever measures they feel they need to protect our community. Had we added enforcement measures to Measure S, they could not be altered without passing another initiative.

Measure S allows each patient to grow six plants — period. Collectives are allowed to grow for patients who live in restricted areas but are capped at 10 patients for a collective located on 30 acres or more. That is hardly unreasonable, yet the people who oppose Measure S mainly live in areas where outdoor cultivation will be banned. Even though they will not be affected by Measure S, it is their goal to make sure that no one can grow marijuana anywhere.

This is a bigger issue than Measure S. Do we want a government that represents or one that oppresses our citizens. Whether you are concerned about the cell tower, the treatment of Dr. Bigelsen, the Outdoor Events ordinance, it is time to send the Board of Supervisors a message. Vote Yes on S!

Patricia Smith is the chair of Americans for Safe Access-Nevada County.



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