Measure W: After defeat, what’s next for outdoor marijuana ban?
June 9, 2016
NEVADA CITY, Calif. — Standing last January before a group of marijuana grow supporters, Hezekiah Allen had doubts about defeating Measure W.
People had crowded into The Haven in downtown Nevada City to hear Allen and others talk about the existing outdoor grow ban and upcoming vote.
The executive director of the California Growers Association, Allen emphasized that changing marijuana policy across the state was a process that could take years. It wasn't tied to one election in Nevada County.
"At that time, yeah, I think the chance of success was very low," Allen said Wednesday. "In January, I probably would have had a difficult time believing this outcome was possible."
The apparent defeat of Measure W by Nevada County voters (including Truckee residents) became clear when the first vote totals were released Tuesday night.
With at least 6,000 votes still uncounted, Measure W failed by 15,845 to 11,585 votes, or 57.8 to 42.2 percent.
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Measure W drew controversy from the start. Heeding Sheriff Keith Royal, the Board of Supervisors on Jan. 12 implemented an urgency ordinance creating an outdoor grow ban and limiting indoor grows to 12 plants. They also put Measure W on the June 7 ballot.
A month later, supervisors passed a resolution of intent stating that they would rescind their ban, still in effect today, if Measure W failed.
Supervisor Dan Miller, board chairman, said Wednesday the board might schedule a special meeting in July to rescind the existing ban, once election results are certified.
Miller said Wednesday morning he emailed Patricia Smith, president of the Nevada County chapter of Americans for Safe Access. Miller wants to discuss the future of grow regulations with her and other stakeholders.
"Hindsight's a difficult thing to address," said Miller, who supported Measure W. "It is what it is. The voters in Nevada County decided that … they didn't feel comfortable with Measure W."
Royal, also a strong Measure W supporter, said people called him Tuesday evening, confused about how they should vote. Some told him they didn't like that the board put the issue to the voters, and said they'd vote against the initiative.
Royal also pointed to a low turnout, likely around 50 to 55 percent once the final votes are tallied, and the possibility of a large turnout of Bernie Sanders supporters opposed to Measure W as other reasons for its failure.
"You've got all these dynamics," the sheriff added.
Heidi Hall, the apparent winner of the District 1 supervisor seat, opposed Measure W. Her supporters campaigned next to W opponents this past weekend.
"I do believe many people inspired to come out and vote because of Measure W also supported me, because I was clear about my lack of support on Measure W," Hall said.
However, Hall said she couldn't speculate on how large a role her stance on Measure W played in her election, or vice versa.
Looking back, Supervisor Ed Scofield said he regrets putting the issue to the voters. If supervisors had stopped at their own ban, and not put Measure W up to a vote, grow supporters would have been forced to gather signatures to place their own initiative on the ballot.
"At the same time, I really have to give credit to the growers," Scofield said. "They got new registrations. They put it together and they defeated it."
Scofield said any new regulations must allow for some outdoor grows, though he emphasized that neighbors must have some protections from them.
For now, the Jan. 12 outdoor ban remains active.
Royal said he would continue to enforce the ordinance, focusing on large, commercial grows that include hundreds of plants.
As for an outdoor grow with 20 plants?
"I don't know that that's our focus," Royal said.