Pubdate: Sun, 08 Oct 2000
Source: Ventura County Star (CA)
Copyright: 2000, Ventura County Star
Contact:  P.O. Box 6711, Ventura CA 93006
Fax: (805) 650-2950
Author: Michelle Locke, The Associated Press


California county may partially legalize drug

MENDOCINO -- The burning issue on Mendocino County's ballot, a grow-your-own
marijuana measure, is a bit of a moot point since state and federal
anti-drug laws will still apply.

Still, backers have high hopes for Measure G, which could become the first
such law in the country. Alaska voters also will vote on legalizing pot, but
there is considerable contention over that measure, which includes offering
restitution for time spent in prison for marijuana crimes.

Mendocino County's cannabis campaign faces no organized opposition.

"Measure G is a political statement by the people of Mendocino County that
we think that the war on marijuana is hugely wasteful. We want to move
political opinion and that's really what this initiative is all about," said
Dan Hamburg, a former Democratic congressman turned Green Party activist who
is among the marijuana measure's backers.

Lovely and remote, Northern California's Mendocino County is the land of a
thousand postcards. But beyond the white-gabled inns and soaring redwoods is
another country.

The "Emerald Triangle," where Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties
converge about 150 miles north of San Francisco, produces a pot crop with a
street value of around $1 billion annually. And it's no ordinary smoke.
Prized by connoisseurs, Emerald Triangle marijuana commands up to $5,000 a

Last year, state anti-marijuana forces raiding Mendocino's illicit pot farms
seized more than 63,000 plants valued at more than $250 million.

Measure G would prohibit sale or transportation of marijuana. But it would
legalize uncounted pot YIMBYs -- Yes in my backyard -- by allowing residents
to grow up to 25 plants for their own use. It also would direct county law
enforcement to make busting small-time growers a low priority.

Authorities here already do that; Sheriff Tony Craver is among the 5,900
residents -- twice the required number -- who signed the petition to get
Measure G on the ballot.

Pass or fail, Craver said, he will enforce state and federal bans on
marijuana -- something he suspects will come as an unpleasant surprise to
would-be pot farmers who interpret Measure G as a license to till. "I'm sure
there'll be some political turmoil surrounding this issue."

Most expect Measure G to pass, considering that voters were 64.5 percent in
favor of the 1996 state initiative allowing use of marijuana for medical
reasons. That measure passed but is still being fought over in the courts.

But support is not universal.

"I think it's going to give a mixed message to kids. And I think it's a bad
message," said Ukiah schools superintendent Gary Brawley.

During lunch hour at the outdoor deck of a cafe in rural Boonville, some
residents expressed mixed opinions.

County resident Eddie Pardini is against it. "Sure, there may be people that
need it for medicinal purposes or whatever, but somewhere down the line it's
going to be abused. Kids are going to get it," he said.

One table over, Hugh Hamilton thought he'd vote for it.

"I would say 'Why not?' I think there are good cases for medical use and I
really think a lot of time and money's being wasted in the war on drugs in
going after the little stuff. I kind of see it as Prohibition all over
again," Hamilton said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Don Beck