California pot initiative gets help from Nevada County resident
Tribune News Service
NEVADA COUNTY, Calif. – Backers of California’s Proposition 19 – the push to legalize marijuana use for adults – are out-raising their opposition without much help from Nevada County.
Campaign finance reports posted earlier this week on Cal-Access, the Secretary of State’s campaign finance information outlet, show Penn Valley’s Gene West is the only Nevada County resident to donate to the struggle one way or the other.
If passed, the initiative would allow anyone 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use.
West, a contractor and landscaper, donated $50 in support of legalization, which attracted $316,000 in donations from April 1 to June 30. Most financial support came from the Bay Area and Los Angeles County, according to campaign finance reports filed with the state. Opposition to the November ballot measure drew just $41,000 in support.
“I gave to it because of Richard Lee,” West said. Lee, a major backer of the initiative and marijuana activist from Oakland, Calif., taught courses to West at his pot-cultivation school, Oaksterdam University. West has attended classes at the school for more than a year, he said.
The Bay Area college teaches future growers how to cultivate marijuana in addition to agitating for the drug’s legalization.
The school’s Executive Chancellor Dale Sky Jones is the official spokeswoman for the campaign to legalize. The lack of donations from counties known in some circles for pot cultivation – Nevada, Humboldt, Mendocino, Shasta and Trinity – isn’t surprising, she said.
“Right now the cannabis industry is in flux,” Jones said. “A lot of cultivators are concerned about taxes, and what their place will be in a post-regulation world.”
Economics also play into the equation, Jones said.
“People aren’t as eager to give when they are trying to scrape money together to put food on the table,” she said.
Economics are part of the reason West made his donation, he said.
He is often called to build gardens for people he suspects will use his irrigation technology and plant boxes to cultivate marijuana.
“I don’t ask any questions, but I have an idea” of what customers use his handiwork for, West said. “I build the garden, do the dirt work, and what they put inside of it is their business.”
His landscaping business could see a boost if the initiative passes into law, West said.
“Sure, if it gets passed more people are going to look” at growing, West said. “But anyone can make their own beer, and not everyone does. Some people would rather just pay their $2 at a bar instead of brewing their own. I think they’d feel the same way about paying $2,000 to set up a garden.”
Local governments could receive a monetary boost from legalization; as well as medical marijuana patients, Jones said.
“The plan is to tax the hell out of it for adults to help to subsidize it for patients,” Jones said. “Local governments are looking for every dollar right now.”
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