Editor's note: With voters heading to the polls in just a few short weeks to decide the fate of Humboldt County's biggest, most celebrated and most notorious cash crop, we offer two opposing views on the issue for voters to consider (find the other here). To be clear, there are many views on Proposition 64. These are just two, offered by people intimately involved with very different aspects of Humboldt County's marijuana industry. Give them a read, consider them and let us know what you think. And however you lean, make sure to vote Nov. 8.
As a small marijuana farmer and co-founder of the Emerald Growers Association, I've devoted most of my working life to ending the inhumane war on marijuana and replacing it with a legal, safe and socially conscious marijuana industry, integral to the history and economy of this region.
Now — with Proposition 64 appearing on the ballot this November — California stands at the doorstep of historic change, sending a message across America that no one should ever be arrested for the responsible use or cultivation of a plant that even President Obama has said is no more harmful than alcohol.
Change is hard, no matter how righteous the cause. With cannabis, I have friends who fear the transition from an illicit market — without basic legal protections — to a fully regulated one. I respect those concerns.
But the policy discourse around this issue has too often been poisoned with the same kind of misinformation and fear tactics that have been perpetuated by institutional anti-marijuana forces since the days of Reefer Madness.
Here are the facts:
Proposition 64 will better protect youth than the current status quo.
If the central objective of current prohibition is to keep marijuana out of the hands of children, then it is an abject failure.
Marijuana today is widely available. Drug dealers don't card. Thousands of juveniles every year — mostly in communities of color — are being arrested for non-violent marijuana offenses which create a permanent criminal record. And not a dime of resources is being invested by the system into proven youth prevention programs.
Studies have shown that by far the most effective method of curbing underage abuse is not criminalization, but tough age restrictions and public education campaigns as contained in Proposition 64 — similar to alcohol and tobacco, where youth use has hit historical lows.
New survey data from the Colorado Department of Public Health shows that the rates of teen marijuana use there have been essentially unchanged since legalization.
Even so, Proposition 64 is far stronger than Colorado. It enforces a 21-and-over age limit, bans public consumption, marketing to or near children and youth-attracting edibles, mandates warning labels and child-proof packaging and funds county-based youth prevention and treatment programs at an unprecedented level.
Proposition 64 is good for the public health.
There's a reason why California's most trusted health providers — including the California Medical Association, California Nurses Association and California Academy of Preventative Medicine — all support Proposition 64.
First, there's no evidence that moderate use of marijuana poses a risk for healthy adults.
Proposition 64 will provide strict testing of marijuana products to ensure that harmful pesticides, molds and other chemicals commonly found in the black market are eliminated from products sold and consumed in California.
It also protects medical patients, provides them an exemption on state sales taxes and preserves all of the current medical marijuana rights. And it will keep California at the cutting edge of clinical health research on the benefits and impacts of marijuana.
Proposition 64 will allow law enforcement to redirect resources toward combatting serious crimes.
According to the independent Legislative Analyst's Office, Proposition 64 will immediately allow state and local law enforcement agencies to save "tens of millions" in taxpayer dollars annually — the fiscal benefit of no longer arresting non-violent marijuana offenders.
In addition, the measure will provide more than $125 million every year to local law enforcement for increased enforcement of more serious crimes.
There is no objective study from other states showing an established link between increased vehicular crash risk and marijuana legalization.
Still, Proposition 64 takes meaningful steps to increase highway and traffic safety.
With technical assistance from the California Highway Patrol, it empowers experts to establish California's first statewide standards for the detection and identification of impaired driving due to marijuana — a problem that exists today with or without Proposition 64 — and funds new training and technology for officers in the field.
Proposition 64 protects small growers and our region's economy.
With policies that are dear to my heart and the hopes of this entire region, Proposition 64 takes extraordinary steps to protect small growers and other independent businesses.
It provides licensing preferences to small businesses operating safely, legally and according to state and local rules. It extends formal microbusiness opportunities and regional appellation resources. It discounts fees and licensing costs for small growers.
And it explicitly empowers state regulators to deny a license to prevent "creation or maintenance of unlawful monopoly power."
For the first five years, no single grower will have a license larger than 22,000 square feet. Even then, state regulators can only issue large-scale cultivation licenses if and only if they are deemed in the public interest and do not promote monopolistic behavior. What's more, any large cultivators will be strictly prohibited from the distribution or retail sales. These amendments were all adopted at the request of small growers.
Proposition 64 is thoughtful, comprehensive reform that protects kids, public health and the interests of small growers.
With the stakes so high, we owe it to voters to offer facts, not more fearmongering.
Kristin Nevedal is the director of Humboldt Finest Collective, co-founder of the Emerald Growers Association and director of the Patient Focused Certification Program with Americans for Safe Access. She supports Proposition 64, but has no official role with the campaign.