The Mendocino Cannabis Policy Council came up short of the 5,004 verified signatures it sought by June 22 to place the Mendocino Cannabis Commission 2015 initiative on the county’s fall ballot. The initiative would have created a commission to oversee and promote farmer-friendly cannabis policies and regulations.
According to the MCPC, the organization gathered 2,798 signatures, falling short of the 5,004 verified signatures needed to go before voters.
MCPC leaders said the commission would have smoothed the county’s transition from “an environment of prohibition to an environment of legalization.”
The failed initiative stated that the cannabis commission would be: “empowered to oversee and promulgate cannabis policy, standards, principles, regional heritage, appellations, regulations and enforcement mechanisms within the realm of agriculture as an industry and way of life; and to protect the rights of family farms by exempting them from tax and regulatory requirements; and to generally protect the rights of small farmers, qualified patients and caregivers and the ecosystem in Mendocino County.”
The commission’s 13 members were to be appointed by the supervisors from a list of nominees supplied by farmer stakeholder organizations, including the MCPC, the Emerald Growers Association and the Small Farmers Association.
The Board of Supervisors, which has the authority to create such a commission, offered no support for the MCPC initiative. Second District Supervisor John McCowen said the initiative gave the commission too much power.
“What it creates is not simply an advisory commission,” McCowen said. “The initiative itself sets into stone certain key provisions of the law. In addition, the initiative measure overall is vague and contradictory, and I do believe that it would lead to lawsuits. So instead of bringing clarity to marijuana law it would bring further confusion.”
Third District Supervisor Tom Woodhouse, who serves with McCowen on the county’s two-person ad hoc committee to study the economic impact of cannabis on Mendocino County, took no position on the proposal.
“Marijuana is not my number one concern,” Woodhouse said when asked for a comment. He added that “one of the big issues” is the environmental impacts of “huge grows” around the county,
“I really don’t care about people growing 25 plants,” Woodhouse said. “I don’t think they should be bothered. When you get up into the hundreds and thousands, it is really destructive. Totally out of control.”
The MCPC insisted the commission would have been advisory only.
“We’re not dictating how it’s going to be done,” said MCPC member Tim Blake before the signatures were tallied. “We’re asking them to come forward and help guide us, because when this goes legal in 2016, the counties are going to have a lot of leeway in how they do things. We want to stake our ground right now and be a model for this state and this country on how to do it. And the people that I’m with have done a remarkable job in crafting an initiative that speaks to all of those issues. It’s already there for the Board of Supervisors. All they have to do is give us a chance.”
To help make its case for the cannabis commission, MCPC invited two patients and a caregiver to speak at a press conference June 19 in Ukiah, before the signature gathering was completed.
A woman named Mary, who is caring for her husband with ALS — Lou Gehrig’s disease— said she could not give her full name because she has two high-CBD medical cannabis plants in her yard. She said the cannabis leaves she mixes in her husband’s daily green drinks appear to have slowed his decline.
“Our hope is it will go slow until we might actually find some cure for this. In the meantime, we have a life together,” she said, wiping away tears. “I am so pissed off at the Board of Supervisors for making these people jump through all these frigging hoops to form a commission that is only going to be making recommendations.”
A woman who identified herself as Candi said she broke both her hips in a car accident 30 years ago. Medical cannabis helped her pain so much she no longer needs the 45 doctor-prescribed pain pills she took each day.
“Now I have no pain at all,” Candi said. “I take zero pain medicine. When you are on 45 pills a day you can’t really function. I went from laying in bed to now I am able to work part time at a wellness center and share my story.”
Tim Blake said that 10 years ago cannabis oil helped him heal from a form of bone cancer that has ravaged his family, killing his mother at 52 and several aunts and uncles.
“I fought cancer and I still deal with it daily,” Blake said. “I use cannabis on a daily basis and it’s kept me alive. And it would have kept my mother and aunts and uncles alive if they’d had access to it.”
Blake praised the 2010 Mendocino Board of Supervisors for its “heroic effort” in establishing the county’s 9.31 program in 2010. The program issued permits to 99-plant farms that complied with strict county regulations and inspections. All other northern California counties were lined up to create similar programs, according to Blake, when the federal attorney general’s office “hammered” one of the farmers, Matthew Cohen, and threatened to arrest several county staff.
Blake said county officials were so “terrorized and threatened” by the actions of federal attorney that they are now afraid to lead on cannabis issues.
McCowen did not respond to that charge but sid he regrets the demise of the 9.31 program.
“The federal attorney, by knocking down the program in effect made marijuana more illegal, more dangerous and more lucrative for the black marketers,” McCowen said. “The federal government has also made it clear that local jurisdictions are at risk unless whatever regulation they adopt fits into a more comprehensive state program.
Ironically, the initiative that is being proposed would further gut 9.31.To me it again would be another greater step backwards.”
(Jane Futcher is the host of “The Cannabis Hour,” every other Thursday at 9 a.m. on KZYX radio.)