Here’s where I think I’ve heard medical marijuana advocates and opponents share views:
• Opposition to the black market. No one wants the moonshiners messing everything up, stealing electricity, siphoning off water, damaging the environment, raising the risk of wildfire, running honey oil labs.
• A need for regulation. Business licenses or permits, registration of some sort to know where plants are grown, where the product goes and the ability to track and tax cannabis appropriately, along with enforcement.
• Concern for the kids. They face more than enough temptations already. Alcohol, still the underage drug of choice, has competed with marijuana among high schoolers for at least the past 50 years. Studies do suggest that the 25 states with legal medical marijuana have seen increases in underage use for much the same reason too many drink.
• Neighbors shouldn’t have to deal with stench crossing property lines, whether from marijuana or livestock or gardens with too much fertilizer. Or similar nuisances like excessive noise and traffic from what doesn’t belong there.
• Opposition to crimes we associate with illicit drugs such as heroin, meth, black market marijuana as well as overindulgence in alcohol and prescription drugs. (Here, I guess we’d look to the dry Middle Eastern countries for guidance about societies mostly free of all this? Other than selling the product of certain poppies to the West, of course.)
• Concern for the health and welfare of the community at large. Both sides express deep love for western Nevada County and her people, as well as the wish to preserve a great way of life.
• People who need this medicine should be able to get it.
• Law enforcement has a big job.
Yes, the list is oversimplified. What I’m calling each side of course has its own range of views.
But these strike me as the widest avenues of agreement. Why not start here? The majority of us sitting somewhere in the middle, dog in neither camp, largely agree with these points, as well, from what I’ve heard so far.
So it makes sense to use something like this list as a guide to decisions. It also would be good for these decisions to at least begin to focus on practicality.
That is, what actions would best nudge us in the best direction to limit the ills and maximize the benefits of medical marijuana?
This is not to suggest any of this is easy. Take regulation, for instance. It might seem practical and simple enough. But setting up for that is a big job in itself, and costly. So is running a county regulatory system. Yes, we manage with food, alcohol and other medicines. But it’s far from automatic and may well not be the tax boon some see for local government. Similar icebergs make up each issue on the list.
Still, trying to hold back the tide plainly hasn’t worked. A good 50 years of growing in Nevada County has more than proved the point. To those still tied to this approach, a message: It gets worse from here. Dams breach. History bears useful lessons for this very issue.
Maybe it’s time at last to move out of our limbic systems and work harder to employ our cerebrums. We’ll know when the jeering stops and arms uncross. We’ll know when one side praises the other, however grudgingly. We’ll know when each side can find parts to like and dislike in ordinances to come. Then we’ll know we’ve at least started on the higher path, the one that best solves this thing.
It is complicated, though I suspect less so than we’ve made out. Our society has seen all of this before, and within the lifetime of our oldest citizens.
History can help us. We’re not really doomed to repeat all the throes of the Prohibition era, even if it seems like that right now.
The county’s standing committee to develop the next marijuana ordinance might benefit from including a trained facilitator as well as a historian.
We could use the perspective. And some real focus on those points where even enemies can agree.