Santa Cruz County Reverses Progressive Commercial Medical Marijuana Legislation
Last week Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors considered new legislation on commercial marijuana grow operations in unincorporated areas of Santa Cruz County, due to a 42% increase in illegal grow operations in the last two years. On March 24th, the Board of Supervisors Chambers overflowed with financial stakeholders in the extremely profitable marijuana industry, where board members discussed a possible ban on all commercial marijuana grow operations, essentially dissolving all non-dispensary grows.
Costs and Benefits to Commercial Grows
Santa Cruz County has been historically progressive and welcoming to the marijuana industry, resulting in what one city official described as a gold rush-type migration that has caused severe erosion, illegal electricity usage, redirected water flows that impact the endangered Coho salmon and steelhead populations, the dispersion of dangerous pesticides, and the clear cutting of giant redwood forests.
Medical marijuana advocates say the ability for commercial growing has provided diverse sources of strains and products, and accessibility for the local population of medical marijuana patients who desperately need relief. Not one single advocate voiced disagreement with the harmful effects of some commercial growers, but for those that pay taxes and run quietly successful businesses, the ban could have a catastrophic impact to their livelihood and well-being.
Can We Compromise?
Santa Cruz County is at a crossroads: either forge ahead with progressive and certainly complicated legislation that will pave the way for marijuana legalization in 2016, or reverse the progress that has been made and return to a simpler legislation that bans commercial cultivation. One economic perspective present at the meeting have an estimate that Santa Cruz County generates over $1billion in revenue from the medical marijuana industry, citing the money spent at hardware stores, grocery stores, property taxes, and restaurants.
One proposal presented to the County Board of Supervisors would treat commercial marijuana cultivation like commercial construction projects, in which EPA, City, and building regulations are enforced: creating a permitting system that allowed commercial grows to operate within a set of standards and practices. Along with a permitting system, educators must provide information to growers and communities that would help them make responsible decisions.
Ultimately the County Board of Supervisors voted to ban commercial medical marijuana operations completely. Personal grows can be 100 square-feet. Now up for question is: how will low-income patients who are so ill they are unable to grow their own marijuana and cannot afford dispensary prices obtain their medicine?
Losing Sight: Patient Needs
One medical marijuana advocate said that it was easy to lose focus and quarrel about political battles, but the truth of it is that everyone is in the industry for the patient who needs the medicine. The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors holds the responsibility to create a system that works for the patient, the grower, residents, officials, and the economy. And with responsibility comes opportunity.
The opportunity for Santa Cruz County to play a major role in the inevitable marijuana legalization has yet to be seen, but one thing is for sure: California voters support providing medicinal marijuana to those that need it, and will likely vote for greater legalization come 2016.
Until then, would you support the compromise that would treat commercial grows as temporary construction projects? Better yet, if the vote were held tomorrow, would you vote to legalize recreational use of marijuana? Vote and comment below.
Should medical marijuana growers be required to obtain permits like new construction projects?
The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors has outright banned commercial medical marijuana cultivation in unincorporated areas of Santa Cruz County.
Should CA Legalize Marijuana for Recreational Use?
The measure would legalize recreational marijuana for adults and, according to proponents, regulate and tax the drug like alcohol.