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Ahead Of Vote, Clamor Continues Over Calaveras Commercial Cannabis

San Andreas, CA -– The clamoring continues to rise as Calaveras activists on both sides of the county’s proposed Measure B commercial cannabis ban argue for and against a local industry of reputed economic promise fraught with enforcement and neighbor issues.

With only seven weeks before the May 2 special ballot, during which resident-voters will officially weigh in, a Superior Court issued a writ of mandate in response to a petitioner’s complaint. The writ requires Measure B authors Bill McManus and David Tunno to amend or delete eight arguments they submitted to the county elections office for use in the voter guide as part of their ban support statements. As reported here, the case was recently filed by local resident and cannabis advocate Bob Bowerman. In it, he specifically outlined eight statements as being false and misleading to voters.

After the hearing one of his attorneys Adrian Lambie stated he thought it significant that the presiding judge observed that, the way the ban initiative was written would likely to lead to more litigation or an invalidation. That acknowledgement echoes others publicly made by more than a few county officials, who additionally anticipate enforcement funding issues if Measure B passes, as fees collected from hundreds of commercial grow applications that are still in process will have to be refunded.

Official Processes In Play

In the interest of getting a better rein on the situation, three of the five county supervisors who ran and won their campaigns last fall on promising to ban grows in their districts formed a bloc. They are former and current District 1 Supervisor Gary Tofanelli, who defeated incumbent and Board Chair Cliff Edsen to reclaim the seat; District 4 Supervisor Dennis Mills, who ran against a slate of other new candidates after Debbie Ponte declined to re-seek election; and District 5 Supervisor Clyde Clapp, who led a recall of incumbent Steve Kearney and was among several running to replace him.

As reported here, the trio’s solidarity helped carry a motion directing county staff towards drafting supervisors’ ban on commercial grows and related industry activities, to keep in the wings. It is currently being crafted to simply comply with all related state regulations, including those that allow for locally compliant medical marijuana dispensaries, unlike Measure B. It would also be in basic compliance with Prop 64.

In another potential supervisors’ move, one of the agenda items at Tuesday’s regular meeting is for the board to discuss setting up a tentatively two-member ad hoc committee on cannabis. As currently proposed, the committee would be made up of two supervisors to review recommendations and ideas submitted by community members to the county planning director on various measures that could be implemented to improve the commercial cultivation industry, should it continue. Both District 2 Supervisor Jack Garamendi, whose constituents include a majority of the grower industry, and Supervisor Mills have expressed interest in serving on it.

Grassroots Political Maneuverings

In recent weeks a local political group, riffing off the national, Texas-based Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition (RAMP), issued a media release of its official formation as a local entity. Since then members are beginning to emerge at public meetings. Called Calaveras Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition (CRAMP), its goals, consistent with RAMP’s, seek to reform cannabis laws by working within the GOP to educate and connect with lawmakers, party leadership, and grassroots activists.

One of its organizers, Dottie Bates, a registered Republican for a number of years who also has a commercial grow on file with the county, says CRAMP’s 120-plus active, registered Republican members and interested parties represent a wide range of ages and backgrounds. She adds that the group’s goal is to work with the Calaveras Central Republican Committee (CCRC) to present a broader outreach perspective. She notes that CRAMP’s recent outreach attempts to collaborate with the central committee went unanswered.

Bates maintains that her group is not just cultivators and others with livelihoods tied to the cannabis industry. As she describes, “We have a few retired law enforcement officials and we have a broad spectrum of interested citizens here in Calaveras County who are just interested in having a conversation about this hot topic issue, without all the emotion and accusations being flung about.”

Testing Comfort Zones

Last week at Greenhorn Creek some hackles raised as a few dozen CRAMP members showed up at a regular meeting of the CCRC, where a discussion was on the agenda to discuss the possibility of issuing an official opinion ahead of the special ballot ban initiative vote. Core members of the group, local head Vicki Reinke and her husband Lance, who was set to make a presentation, previously supported a ban measure that did not make the ballot. As Vicki describes the turnout, “The elected members of the CCRP voted to adjourn the meeting due to the violation of the fire code. An estimated 66 to 70 persons were in attendance. The room that the CCRP meeting is held is authorized for a maximum of 49 persons.”

Angels Camp Police Chief Todd Fordahl recounts that evening somewhat differently, explaining that a call from a CCRC representative came in, requesting the removal of numerous people from the meeting who were unknown to the organization. Upon arriving at the event, the chief says officers determined that, since the meeting was officially intended as a public gathering, they did not have grounds to disperse the assembly. However, he says, the local fire marshal was summoned to explain that, as the crowd exceeded fire code number limits, in order to continue the event people would need to be rotated in and out in a way that would allow the space to remain within its legal public occupancy limit.

In the remaining weeks ahead before the May 2 ballot, numerous more events focusing on educational will no doubt be slated. Bates, for her part, states, “We are looking engage the farming community who identify as Republicans, and with those older conservatives who do not necessarily live a farming or agricultural lifestyle. A lot of us who are cultivators within the group heavily identify with the Republican values and have for a life-long time.”

Still Time To Make A Case For Regulation?

She argues that CRAMP’s core values are in step with those of fellow Republicans: celebrating an individual’s right to freedom, property rights and the pursuit of happiness as well as the rights of free markets and enterprise, as well as to succeed with and without government interventions. Bates is also quick to emphasize the desire of registered growers to be accepted in the community and be compliant. Should regulations continue to provide opportunities for the industry to proceed, she adds they hope for an opportunity to recoup any investments that they created with the possibility of some properties being rezoned.

While Bates optimistically stresses that beyond regulations, neighbor agreements can be made to “help keep everybody happy,” she understands that for the future of commercial cultivation to stand a chance in Calaveras, the biggest challenge remains for all sides concerned to really understand the short and long-term challenges and opportunities at stake.

To this end, she says she hopes that town hall and other meeting events events in the days ahead are able to thoughtfully provide effective, public outreach forums that facilitate broad participation and information sharing so voters can make informed decisions.