Opinion: Nevada County needs to vote ‘no’ on Measure W | SierraSun.com

Opinion: Nevada County needs to vote ‘no’ on Measure W

Robyn Caywood
Opinion

Editor’s note

Visit bit.ly/1R9LIVv to access the Nevada County Elections page, where you can learn more about Measure W, which is on the June 7 primary ballot.

My family has a rich history in the alcohol and tobacco industries. My moonshiner grandparents opened one of the first legal bars in Appalachia, Ky., after Prohibition.

Prohibition caused a thriving black market that my family benefited from. And I grew up hearing stories of explosions in the woods, gunfights and people getting poisoned from toxic materials used to build stills. Regulation of the industry has created obvious changes.

Also as a child I remember the festive month of tobacco harvest and the warehouse tobacco sales set up on I-75. This was in the late ‘70s before tobacco regulation; when most tobacco was grown by small family farms, much like the current marijuana industry.

My uncle still farms tobacco and went through the necessary changes from no regulation to compliance. I inherited a farm in rural Kentucky that comes with state rights to grow and sell “x” number of tobacco shares (I choose not to), but ironically it is in one of Kentucky’s few “dry” counties prohibiting the sale of alcohol and tobacco.

“A ‘No’ vote on Measure W is the only way we can ensure that our county government is able to do its job and research this issue in a way that truly represents Nevada County and the changes the whole country will be adjusting to over the next decade.”

The county has had minimal economic growth because of the “dry” status. Residents still have to drive 30 minutes to enjoy restaurants, shopping and simple amenities. The farm is worth barely more now than when my dad bought it nearly 30 years ago.

My adopted father is the co-founder of the American Indian Movement. He is currently spending five months walking across the U.S. on “The Longest Walk 5” (facebook.com/LongestWalk5) to raise awareness about important issues facing native people — one of which is the pandemic of drug abuse. He sees one of the biggest contributing factors as failed U.S. drug policies that incarcerate rather than rehabilitate.

All of these stories have a common thread of the pros and cons of regulating substances and proof that government can either benefit or harm depending on whose interests the government is protecting.

Which brings us to Nevada County — I see Measure W as potentially disastrous for our county. When Prohibition ended, the country went through growing pains and mixed emotions. No matter your opinion about marijuana; the industry is being recognized and regulated in our state.

California is steeped in marijuana culture. That is as much of our history as the gold rush. The state has been working diligently on researching and creating policy that will allow California to remain a leader in this industry while addressing obvious concerns that come along with it like pesticide use, water use, land use, crime, etc.

They are proposing licenses to assure these concerns are being prioritized. If Nevada County votes “yes” on Measure W, it will lock us into a ban, without the chance to consider the state’s new policies; essentially creating a “dry county” which will be economically crippling. This ban could only be changed with another costly, time consuming and contentious election.

There is a “middle path.” We do not have to choose either a complete ban or allow out-of-control, unregulated marijuana grows. I believe that most people in Nevada County agree there are real issues that need to be addressed and share concerns about the environment, water use and creating safe neighborhoods.

A “No” vote on W allows a conversation to begin about how Nevada County can create a “middle path” that addresses these concerns. On April 14, 2016 “Cottage” license legislation advanced in California. This proposed license is an example of a “middle path” for small counties like ours. It would allow small farms to have up to 25 plants on agriculturally zoned land with inspections  to ensure safety to the community and environment. The county would collect fees for these licenses and growers would need to stay in compliance to maintain and renew their licenses, which means that people will be more willing to comply than with just an ordinance.

It would guarantee annual revenue to the county from licensing fees, as well as  boosting local economy which generates tax revenue.

A “No” vote on Measure W allows Nevada County to carefully look at the issue with input from different perspectives, learn from other counties experiences and create a well thought-out policy, rather than a rushed urgency ban.

A “No” vote on Measure W is the only way we can ensure that our county government is able to do its job and research this issue in a way that truly represents Nevada

County and the changes the whole country will be adjusting to over the next decade.

Robyn Caywood is a Grass Valley resident.