The legalization of marijuana for recreational use in California is no longer a question of if, but when.
A ballot measure is expected to come before voters in November 2016. But before joints are fired up on Main Street, Mono County Supervisors are joining other counties and lawmakers in a preemptive legislative strike to try and assure an easy, safe and profitable transition that includes some local control over legal weed.
An alliance of North Coast Counties that include some infamous cannabis cultivating areas like Humboldt County has drafted a letter to state legislators urging for some local control over policy matters on legal marijuana.
Colorado and Washington had little to no regulation in place before voters approved recreational use and the states are now plagued with problems, along with substantial tax revenue: $40 million in 2014 for the Rocky Mountain High state.
California has been in no rush to deal with medical marijuana issues, with dispensary regulations just now coming before legislators, 19 years after voters first approved weed for medical use. Currently there are four bills dealing with medical marijuana cultivation standards and environmental impacts of growing, taxing structures and oversight committees such as the possible formation of the Office of Medical Marijuana Regulation.
The letter states there needs to be clear and certain regulation from the State while leaving room for local control and flexibility to address individual community needs. The counties drafted a “North Coast Counties Marijuana Policy Statement” which outlines four points: 1) local control, including the right to regulate cultivation and land use, business licenses and restrictions on sales or distribution, 2) revenue and taxation that will encourage a regulated market, 3) environmental protections, and, 4) economics, such as having a mandated portion of marijuana-generated tax revenue be allocated toward research, education and prevention programs, similar to tobacco tax.
Mono County Supervisors agreed with the policy and asked staff to follow developments on the subject.
The Sheet asked Mono County Sheriff Ingrid Braun to weigh in on marijuana in Mono County, now and in a possible legalized future:
Sheet: Is marijuana currently a problem (illegal grows, sales, transportation, under age use) in the County?
Braun: Marijuana is most certainly a problem in Mono County. The recent burglaries and car thefts in the Mammoth Lakes area were committed by teenagers looking for marijuana, alcohol and other drugs. We have had illegal grows in the County in recent history, and I expect we will find more. Illegal grows are usually guarded by armed watchmen, and I fear what could happen to innocent hikers who stumble upon an illegal grow.
Sheet: Should marijuana become legal, would you anticipate a decline in illegal growing activity, such as in the forest and backcountry with the legalization?
Braun: Should marijuana be legalized in California, I don’t anticipate a decline in illegal growing activity. Those who are willing to risk breaking the law now are not likely to suddenly become law-abiding citizens. Cartels and other large-scale growers will continue illegal grows to avoid taxes and other regulations.
Sheet: Do you anticipate an increase in driving while high? Does the Sheriff’s Department have means to check the THC in drivers for their level of intoxication? Is there a field ready test?
Braun: I don’t know if driving under the influence of marijuana will increase. Colorado experienced an increase after marijuana was legalized there. Law enforcement officers are trained in the objective symptoms of being under the influence. Currently, there is not a field ready test for marijuana; blood or urine testing is the only current option. However, field tests are being developed and could be in use soon.
Sheet: Would you be in favor of prohibition, a dry county?
Braun: I don’t have a position one way or the other, but that would be difficult to enforce.
Sheet: It may be after the fact at this point, but what is your stance on marijuana for recreational use? What is your position, if you have one, on legalization: good, bad, indifferent?
Braun: My role as the Sheriff of Mono County is to ensure we enforce the laws of California, Mono County and Mammoth Lakes. My personal opinion has no bearing on the law, so it’s irrelevant.