Election 2016: Marijuana ballot measure inflames passions in Nevada County
Primary election information
Officials are expected to begin mailing sample ballots for Nevada and Placer county voters in late April and early May; the final day to register to vote in the election is May 23.
The early voting prior for the June 7 primary will begin May 9. Polling places for early voting in both Nevada and Placer counties — as well as on primary election day — will be published this spring.
GRASS VALLEY, Calif. — A crowd mostly hostile to Nevada County Supervisor Dan Miller applauded his statement, which he gave with no reticence, about why the Board of Supervisors opted to send Measure W to the voters.
The reason, Miller explained during a Measure W educational forum Tuesday in Grass Valley, is that future boards would change over time.
The inference is those boards could have supervisors who don’t support an outdoor medical marijuana grow ban, and that board could overturn a supervisor-imposed ban.
A voter-imposed ban would require another vote of the people to change that ban.
“This board is committed to bringing cultivation into compliance,” Miller said at the Tuesday forum. “I’m telling you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.
“This is what we decided and that’s why we’re letting the people decide,” added Miller, whose Supervisor District 3 seat covers the city of Grass Valley, Cedar Ridge, the Brunswick Basin, Squirrel Creek, and unincorporated areas along Highways 49 and 20.
Jonathan Collier, chairman of the Nevada County California Growers Association, argued that a voter-imposed ban is what growers want to avoid.
“We don’t necessarily agree with cementing this in,” Collier added. “The existing ban does what it does.”
Miller and Collier fielded several questions at the forum hosted by the Nevada County Democratic Party, which drew more than 100 people.
Measure W, if adopted by Nevada County voters in the June 7 primary election, would replace the existing supervisor-implemented outdoor grow ban and 12-plant indoor limit with a voter-imposed ban.
Growers have repeatedly petitioned supervisors for relief since they implemented an urgency ordinance banning outdoor grows. Miller, however, pointed to the 2012 regulations supervisors created — regulations he said helped lead to a proliferation of illegal grows.
“We were looking for some type of control,” Miller said. “We had regulations in place. The regulations weren’t working.”
Sweeping statewide marijuana regulations signed into law last year is a broad stroke, Miller said, arguing what works in Sacramento won’t necessarily work in the Sierra Foothills.
“Basically, it’s not acceptable as (far as) a community culture is concerned, and it’s the community culture we’re concerned about,” Miller said.
Collier said permitting and licensing are crucial to removing the illegal growers and helping those who want to work within the law.
“We’re tired of the gray area,” Collier said. “We want clear delineation. Let’s just make the rules very clear.”
Licenses would foster a culture of best practices among growers. The nuisance issues like the smell, danger to children and “trimmigrants” who come to the county solely to help harvest marijuana can be solved through licenses, Collier said.
“We can’t do that when there’s a ban that exists,” he added.
What is Measure W?
Measure W stems from the Nevada County Board of Supervisors’ Jan. 12 vote implementing an immediate outdoor grow ban on medical marijuana, and limiting indoor grows to 12 plants.
On that day, supervisors also put Measure W on the June 7 primary election ballot.
A “Yes” vote would augment the existing supervisor-imposed ban with one implemented by voters. A “No” vote would reject Measure W, though the supervisor ban would still be in place.
Supervisors have reportedly said they’d repeal their ban if residents vote down Measure W.
The question reads as follows: “Shall an ordinance be adopted which (a) bans outdoor cultivation, commercial cultivation and other commercial cannabis activities, (b) limits indoor cultivation to 12 plants per parcel in residential and rural areas, (c) prohibits indoor marijuana cultivation in unpermitted structures and areas used for intended for human occupancy, and (d) allows marijuana cultivation only by qualified patients and primary caregivers and only for medical purposes?”
Proponents say Measure W would ensure qualified medical marijuana patients have access to the medicine they need while giving authorities the ability to immediately stop outdoor grows.
Alternatively, opponents say the measure rejects California’s new regulatory framework for cultivation, forcing legitimate growers indoors and creating fire, chemical and electrical hazards.
Alan Riquelmy is a reporter with The Union newspaper in Grass Valley and Nevada City. Sierra Sun Managing Editor Kevin MacMillan contributed to this report.