Pubdate: Sat, 08 Sep 2012
Source: Times-Standard (Eureka, CA)
Copyright: 2012 Times-Standard
Author: Michael Risso
Note: Michael Risso resides in Willow Creek.


The recently published opinion by John Myers of Arcata advocating 
legitimacy for the cultivators and purveyors of marijuana ("Marijuana 
grows aren't going anywhere," Times-Standard, Sept. 1, Page A4) 
contains several assertions that defy both reason and reality. That 
author also omits consideration of appurtenant consequences that have 
arisen as the marijuana trade has embedded itself into our 
communities and economy.

California voters passed Proposition 215 in compassion for the 
legitimate users of an otherwise illicit drug who suffer from certain 
medically defined ailments. Persons afflicted with AIDS, glaucoma, 
recovery from chemotherapy, certain forms of arthritis, and other 
conditions appear to benefit. These are the folks that I and many of 
my fellow Californians had in mind when voting for Proposition 215. 
However, we did not do so to provide for commercial activities 
devoted to recreational use or for export across state lines. We did 
not do so to encourage or offer safe harbor to individuals and 
businesses engaged in illegal land development, environmental 
degradation, tax evasion, code violations, and property crime. The 
latest ballot proposition advocating legalization for recreational 
use was defeated less than a year ago. I can only pity Mr. Myers' 
loss of short term memory in this regard.

Mr. Myers may be right when inferring that the marijuana "industry" 
is here to stay. Maybe Al Capone had similar thoughts in his day as 
he spread grief and violence in pursuit of personal wealth. The 
problem is that the commercial production and sale of marijuana is 
not an industry. It is, under current state and federal law, a 
criminal activity.

The costs of this industry are readily apparent. Regarding the 
"indoor" growers; the rental property market has been distorted as 
indoor grows proliferate, raising landowner risk and diminishing an 
already low stock of affordable housing. The documented abuses of 
Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s low income energy subsidy program robs 
the poor for whom the program is intended and defrauds the 
contributing ratepayers.

Outdoors, rural agricultural and forest land markets are distorted. 
When property values are based on an illegal use, legitimate uses are 
constrained. This is a particularly cruel circumstance when 
inheritance taxes come due and heirs must pay against a grossly 
inflated assessment. Outdoor grows, including the so-called Mom and 
Pop operations, generally depend on water withdrawals without right 
or permit from the Department of Water Resources, thus depleting late 
season cold water flows crucial for certain fish populations. The 
cumulative effect of small scale operations equals or exceeds that of 
the more notorious large scale grows. Trash, abandoned plastic 
irrigation lines that decay and wash into watersheds, herbicides, 
pesticides, human waste and other external costs of this supposedly 
noble endeavor are borne by all.

Meanwhile, environmental advocacy groups such as the Environmental 
Protection Information Center, the Sierra Club, and the North Coast 
Environmental Center are strangely silent. Apparently their business 
is to sue for the purpose of acquiring attorney's fees rather than to 
actually address clear environmental threats. State enforcement 
agencies best positioned to address the environmental assault, such 
as the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, are missing in action.

This is not a victimless activity. Wildlife suffers, water quality 
suffers, and people suffer. If you enjoy marijuana as a recreational 
drug, then go ahead. Grow one or two plants on your own property or 
in your own home and use the product yourself; no one is going to 
bother you. Grab a bag of Doritos and park yourself in front of your 
HDTV. Please just leave the rest of us alone.
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