Political Experience Suggests Delaying Re-Regulating Commercial Marijuana in Calaveras County is Risky
Having read in the Calaveras Enterprise Planning Director Peter Maurer explain what the County’s priorities should be for the coming year, I would like to very respectfully suggest factors he may have overlooked that might merit his consideration.
One reasonable interpretation of the election results would suggest that most voters agree that if it is possible to successfully regulate commercial cannabis and reap the tax benefits, the Supervisors should move in that direction.
The question is when.
Mr. Maurer says the County will have to wait until March, at the earliest, to hold a public hearing on the subject. After that, no one knows what will happen or how long it could take to re-regulate commercial marijuana. My suggestion is that whatever it takes, it is done fast.
This is because 2020 is an election year. Three of five seats on the Board of Supervisors will be up for election – Districts 1, 2, and 4. In District 2 the incumbent is a prohibitive favorite. In District 1 the issue is quite unclear, and the District 4 incumbent is likely in for a tough fight.
During the 2018 election we frequently heard candidates on all sides of the commercial marijuana issue confess to being sick of it and wanting to “move on.” There are reasons for this. But one thing we have seen – when this issue starts to crowd out all the others, important and serious questions regarding County policy are either warped or get left out of the discussion altogether.
So, I respectfully suggest that right now, as soon as practicably possible, is the time for the Board to address re-regulating commercial marijuana. Let’s get this done and move on right now.
The next election cycle begins this coming September, and allowing the issue to remain pending risks it getting caught up in the debate in no fewer than three supervisorial elections, likely involving three incumbent Supervisors, and the political reality is that the Board would feel great pressure to delay making a decision until after the election – and that means 2021.
Some voters, in good faith, might well ask ‘so what?’ Why not wait a couple years, get everything done just right, and then turn on the tax tap and reap the benefits?
This sounds plausible on the surface, but both the micro and macro-economic realities of our current situation make this strategy highly problematic.
On the macro side other counties, perhaps envying the benefits Calaveras received from just one year of regulated commercial marijuana, are jumping on the bandwagon. The news tells us that in this new industry market share is being negotiated and business relationships are being formed now, and Calaveras County, one of the first out of the gate, now risks being left out altogether.
Worse, the very commercial marijuana growers that the County should want to encourage to be here are the lawful, State-licensed, environmentally-regulated growers who have already followed the rules and paid their taxes. But now, their livelihood is banned by the County – and for how long? Should we lose these families, we cannot predict who will take their place.
No one denies Calaveras County needs an updated General Plan.
But given the political and economic realities of our situation right now, not to mention the possible additional general fund revenue that might be forthcoming this year, some might consider it rational to order the County’s priorities to include resolving the commercial marijuana issue now, before it is put off for who knows how long?