Opinion: Measure W a ‘dangerous, costly precedent’ for Nevada County
Never before has a Nevada County Board of Supervisors initiated a ballot measure asking voters to approve provisions of a land use ordinance it had already adopted and put in force, and which would continue to be enforced whether the Measure passed or failed.
After researching local ballot measures going back to 1976, and a search on ballotpedia going back to 1889, it can be stated as fact that Measure W is without precedent.
The ban on outdoor cannabis cultivation, the 12 plant indoor cultivation limit, the ban on commercial activities, are already codified in Urgency Ordinance 2405, adopted by the Supervisors on January 12th, this year.
Our vote on Measure W, whether “Yes” or “No,” will have absolutely no effect on the continuing enforcement of the provisions of Urgency Ordinance 2405.
We are not voting on whether or not to ban outdoor cultivation and commercial activity. They are already banned. We are voting on whether or not to set a very dangerous and costly precedent affecting our system of representative democracy.
No other Nevada County Board of Supervisors has sent already adopted land use provisions to the ballot because, if upheld, it would deny the next Board and all future Boards their existing legislative power to make substantive changes to the provisions of that ordinance.
Substantive changes to a voter-approved Measure can only be approved by another voter-approved Measure, which, in turn, could only be changed by another voter-approved Measure … costly elections ad infinitum.
This is the dangerous and costly precedent our current Board of Supervisors wishes to set. If Measure W passes, our current Board would be the last board to have had legislative authority over this contentious issue. They would have the final say — absent another costly election.
When the Supervisors adopted Ordinance 2405 they exempted it from a noticed 30-day public review period and a noticed public hearing. Moreover, they exempted it from any review of its potential environmental and fiscal impacts.
In its haste to ban all outdoor cultivation and commercial activity, the supervisors turned a blind eye to the significant environmental impacts of indoor — only cultivation on climate change.
Take a look at the seminal study of the carbon footprint of indoor cannabis cultivation, published four years ago by Evan Mills, senior scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. His study has been peer-reviewed and updated in numerous publications and scientific journals. His findings are just now starting to make their way to policy makers.
Indoor cannabis cultivation produces 4,600 times the weight of the finished product in CO2 emissions to the atmosphere.
Outdoor cannabis cultivation produces nearly zero CO2 emissions to the atmosphere.
A single patient, cultivating a year’s supply of 6.5 pounds indoors, produces 29,900 pounds of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere, or 13.56 metric tons.
If 3,000 patients cultivated an average of 6.5 pounds indoors, they would collectively produce over 40,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere.
How many more barrels of oil must be extracted from the earth to meet the electricity demands imposed upon the thousands of legal medical cannabis patients in our county?
What will be the effect of indoor-only cultivation on our county’s energy reduction programs?
Will the increased demand for electricity result in an increase to everyone’s electricity bills?
These questions, and many others, can only be answered by an objective environmental and fiscal review. An environmental impact report could provide us and the supervisors with reasonable alternatives that would enable us to rid our county of illegal, irresponsible growers without throwing thousands of legal and responsible medical cannabis patients under the bus.
A “yes” vote on Measure W slams the door on any environmental or fiscal review, deprives us of the information we need to make intelligent choices, and sets a very dangerous and costly precedent for all taxpayers. A “No” vote on Measure W is the only vote that can keep that door open.
Ray Oliver is a Nevada County resident, living in North San Juan.
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