El Dorado County sheriff weighs in on county cannabis questions
PLACERVILLE, Calif. — Speaking at the candidates’ forum earlier this month Sheriff John D’Agostini encouraged members of the audience to vote “no” on the five different measures on the November ballot that would allow the growing and recreational sale of cannabis in the county.
Placed there by the county board of supervisors, Measure N would create a general tax on cannabis with specific rates set for outdoor cultivation, indoor cultivation, dispensary sales, retail sales and other uses. The tax would involve a permitting process with public feedback, as well as an enforcement program with fines set for illegal commercial activity. This measure must pass in order for any or all the others to pass.
Measure P would allow the outdoor cultivation of medicinal cannabis for commercial purposes, including grows in greenhouses.
Measure Q would allow the outdoor cultivation of recreational cannabis for commercial purposes, including grows in greenhouses.
Measure R would allow the indoor commercial operations such as sales, cultivation or distribution for medicinal cannabis.
Measure S would allow the indoor commercial operations such as sales, cultivation or distribution for recreational cannabis.
Rod Miller, who works for the El Dorado County Grower’s Alliance, also spoke at the candidates’ forum, saying the reality of the situation is that there are thousands of growers and thousands of cannabis businesses in the county. Prohibition didn’t work with alcohol and it’s the free market that will solve the problem of illegal grows, he insisted, saying passage of the different measures would make the county safer.
“It’s the illegal environment that creates the cartels. They don’t need contracts, they have guns,” he said.
Making the case against legalizing cannabis in the county, D’Agostini told the crowd that the five measures grew out of meetings the county held with different groups, as Proposition 64 allows each county in the state to do what it wants regarding cannabis.
The board of supervisors decided to put these measures on the ballot because they worried if they didn’t, Miller’s group would and the board might not like the way they would be worded, D’Agostini explained.
Referencing the experiences of other states that legalized marijuana earlier than California, D’Agostini brought up the Rocky Mountain HIDTA Medical Marijuana Report, the Oregon-Idaho HIDTA Program and a recent op-ed by Bob Troyer, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado, in which Troyer said Colorado has seen an increase in youth marijuana use, a increase in marijuana-related traffic fatalities and other impacts.
Bringing the issue back to this county, D’Agostini cited the recent homicide in Georgetown that he said was a cartel killing out of Sinaloa.
Miller responded by saying the extensive rules governing the growing and selling of cannabis will head off those kinds of problems by strictly regulating marijuana grows.
D’Agostini countered by agreeing the regulations will be onerous but at the same time said, “They aren’t doing it now so what makes you think they all, all of a sudden, will flip and be law-abiding citizens? If we think that this is going to be a panacea, it’s not the way to go. Let other counties do it.”
The sheriff went on to note that the assumption the tax money raised by Measure N will be spent on enforcing the law may be in error as it’s a general tax and could be spent on anything the county wants.
“We don’t need this in our county, we don’t need this for our kids,” he said, adding that El Dorado County, because of its growing conditions, is ideal for those who want to grow it and sell it wherever in the country it will bring the most money.
Currently he said they are trying to enforce the ban on marijuana grows by using code enforcement and issuing citations. The hope being that once those citations start adding up and people’s property gets taken, growers will get the message.
D’Agostini also reminded the audience that marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug as far as the federal government is concerned with the problem being that the law is not being followed in California.
Under the Obama administration, there was lax enforcement of the law, he said. But the Trump administration is looking at it more closely, especially grows on federal land, noting there was just a huge operation in California from Tuolumne to Shasta County that highlighted cartels growing marijuana on federal land.