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PD Editorial: No on Measure AF: A measure by pot farmers for pot farmers

Should recreational use of marijuana be legal in California?

It’s a relatively simple question. And, for the most part, it’s already been answered.

Since 1975, the penalty for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana has been a fine of no more than $100. Since 2011, a conviction for simple possession has been classified as an infraction - the same as a ticket for a rolling stop or talking on a cellphone while driving.

No one is serving time in state prison or a county jail for rolling a joint.

Proposition 64 on Tuesday’s ballot would eliminate the $100 fine. But that change doesn’t require a 62-page, 30,415-word statute. So what’s in the fine print of Proposition 64? It lays out a detailed regulatory structure for marijuana growers, distributors and retailers - covering everything from licensing to labeling and product testing to transportation, even the application of labor laws - all crafted without public oversight by and for people with a financial stake in the outcome of Proposition 64.

That’s a primary reason for The Press Democrat’s opposition (“No on 64: Just too many risks and unknowns,” Oct. 14).

We have the same objections to Measure AF, a medicinal marijuana regulatory measure on Tuesday’s ballot in Mendocino County.

Measure AF was drafted by Mendocino County marijuana growers for the benefit of, well, Mendocino County marijuana growers.

There are, however, other stakeholders. Even in Mendocino County, where we have little doubt that there are solid majorities in favor of medicinal and recreational marijuana - even as there are reservations among local growers about the potential impacts of Proposition 64.

Measure AF is, at best, premature. It’s probably unnecessary - and it ignores legitimate concerns of people who live and work near marijuana growing operations.

Mendocino County supervisors are working to update local rules so they are consistent with the state’s Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, which was written by local legislators and took effect this year.

There have been ample opportunities for public participation, including by growers, in the process of updating the county ordinance. And there will be more such opportunities before it comes up for a final vote, probably in December or January.

No county has been more welcoming than Mendocino to medicinal marijuana growers. Before a legal conflict emerged with the U.S. Justice Department, the sheriff inspected and certified pot farms with up to 99 plants. The draft ordinance would allow farms up to 10,000 square feet and prohibits new growers from entering the market before 2020. (One of the local concerns about Proposition 64 expressed by local growers is that it could start a green rush of new pot farmers, cutting into the livelihood of long-time growers.)

Measure AF, in contrast, has no cap on the number of permits and would allow farms up to one acre in all rurally zoned areas, with minimal setbacks from property lines, schools and youth facilities. Critics say a convoluted appeals process could make it difficult to address any violations.

It’s common, even predictable, to have conflicts when initiatives are used to circumvent the regular lawmaking process where all stakeholders have an opportunity to scrutinize proposals, point out deficiencies and negotiate compromises. Measure AF is just such a one-sided proposal, and it ought to be rejected.

Measure AI is on the ballot because the state constitution requires voter approval of local taxes. Drafted by the supervisors, it would authorize the county to levy a gross-receipts tax ranging from 2.5 percent to 10 percent on marijuana-related enterprises to help pay for public services. Measure AJ also was placed on the ballot by the supervisors. It’s an advisory measure asking whether voters want revenue from the proposed marijuana tax to be spent on enforcement of marijuana regulations, road improvements and mental health services - all of which would benefit Mendocino County residents.

The Press Democrat recommends a no vote on Measure AF and a yes vote on Measures AI and AJ in Mendocino County.

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