Pubdate: Tue, 8 Apr 2008
Source: Arcata Eye (CA)
Copyright: 2008 Arcata Eye
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Marijuana - California)


To watch the City Council thrash and gnash over medical marijuana 
cultivation in the downtown area last week was more than a little bit 
harrowing, as it flirted with making the same mistake 
well-intentioned but wayward leaders do when things don't go 
according to plan -- they throw out the plan.

It's perfectly understandable that the council and many citizens 
would want to maintain the status quo, with two, going on three, 
industrial-scale grows providing medicine and tax revenue from 
otherwise-unused facilities. Especially since these businesses went 
ahead with large-scale installations in good faith and with no 
indication that they were running afoul of City regs.

The finger-pointing over that can get underway once all the appeals 
are exhausted. For now, though, one lesson to be learned is that in a 
world of difficult choices, the council was right to respect the 
painstaking work of its citizens, staff and Planning Commission in 
creating the General Plan 2020 and in defining it when push comes to 
shove, as occurred when the Planco ruled that agriculture, be it 
flower bulbs or marijuana buds, is not what was intended.

Some of the dispensary advocates presented a false choice: turn the 
downtown into an industrial marijuana factory or support grow houses 
that wreck neighborhoods and make contaminated pot. Patients would be 
poisoned with this impure substance, and it would be the City's fault.

The grow houses will grow and sell regardless of the dispensaries. 
And the dispensaries still can grow in industrial or agricultural 
zones, as the Planning Commission and Community Development 
department made plain.

In the 1970s, the City Council helped put Arcata on a sustainable 
financial footing with establishment of Aldergrove Industrial Park. 
This has enabled Arcata to weather financial storms and economic 
fluctuations, for example in the timber and fishing industries, while 
other communities are hit hard by the changing winds.

Now, the 2008 City Council came close to cementing Arcata's 
dependence on a highly volatile, quasi-legal tax resource -- Big 
Marijuana. This phenomenon is in a transitory phase -- it's all based 
on a cockamamie patchwork of federal and state laws and gray legal 
areas, and the DEA could close it all down at any moment. This is 
what we should base Arcata's tax revenue stream on?

Without some sort of ceiling on this phenomenon, and given the hugely 
lucrative nature of the industry, more downtown economic 
infrastructure could be consumed by this temporary cash cow monolith. 
When it goes away, then what?

It was expediency -- the desire to end-run troublesome but carefully 
developed laws -- that compelled the Bush Administration to simply 
nullify carefully-wrought Roadless Area Rules in our national 
forests.  Thankfully, the courts shot that down. And then there's the 
administration's infamous Torture Memo, which not only justified 
heinous, non-productive acts but set our country back in ways we are 
just beginning to realize.  All from trying to short-circuit the law 
of the land.

When a councilmember lamented that Arcata might be "stuck in 
legalism," it offered a heart-stopping resonance with Bush's uglier, 
process-be-damned urges.  Obviously, the scale of these offenses is 
vastly different, but the same impulse plays out in ways as trivial 
but troubling as blowing stop signs, parking in spaces reserved for 
the handicapped and letting your dog take a dump on the Plaza.

And the point is the same: either make rules you're serious about 
with the kinds of open public processes that brought about the 
General Plan, or change the law to reflect reality. But don't just 
throw the backbone of our social contract aside willy-nilly whenever 
expediency calls. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake