Proposed “Measure B” on Marijuana Sows Vitriol in Mendocino County, California

cannabis seed

 

Few discourses are as combative as local political advertising in the United States. Proposed county ordinances are supported passionately by residents, but are just as passionately opposed by the neighbors, family members, and friends of the supporters. In Mendocino County, located in Northern California, this is true of Measure B, a proposed county ordinance that establishes county medical marijuana limits at the state limit of six mature plants and eight ounces of processed marijuana.

The advertising in radio and print media is extensive from both parties engaged in the debate. Both proponents and opponents of Measure B use appeals to fear and ad hominem attacks without providing much in the way of concrete evidence for their position.

Measure B is a Mendocino County proposed ordinance repealing a county ordinance previously passed in 2000, Measure G. Measure B limits possession of marijuana to eight ounces and six plants, the minimum allowable under California state law. Additional amounts of processed marijuana or plants may be prescribed by a licensed physician. The law that is to be repealed, Measure G, is a non-binding Mendocino County ordinance decriminalizing possession of twenty-five mature marijuana plants and two pounds of processed marijuana. M

easure G directs the Board of Supervisors, county District Attorney, and Sheriff’s office to place marijuana enforcement as the lowest enforcement priority.

However, California’s primary medical marijuana law, Proposition 215, is in conflict with federal law. The FDA lists marijuana as a Category I drug, without any practical or medical use. The US Supreme Court has ruled that “medically necessary” may not be used as a defense in marijuana prosecutions. With California’s liberal marijuana laws, Mendocino County’s Measure G made the rural county’s ordinances the most relaxed in the nation. Commercial growers, growing marijuana with the intent to sell for profit to non-medical buyers and distributors, began to congregate on the Golden State’s North Coast.

weed seedsThis is the assumption of both sides debating Measure B. Often, commercial marijuana growers use public lands, such as Jackson Demonstration State Forest and Mendocino National Forest, to plant large “guerrilla grows,” gardens that are planted on property as far from settled areas as possible to avoid discovery.

These gardens contain hundreds or thousands of pot plants and are generally fertilized with synthetic chemical fertilizers. Commercial marijuana growers also do not worry about being inspected by the Agricultural Commissioner and therefore feel free to dump the trash and debris of growing and harvesting marijuana.

Promoters of Measure B use wording that reinforces uncertainty and fear. For example, supporters of Measure B argue that “[c]ommercial marijuana cultivation in Mendocino County is out of control…” and that Mendocino County government has been ineffective in dealing with the severe impacts of illegal gardens .

 

Here, the use of “out of control” and “ineffective” establishes a perception of futility of attempting any regulation under the current county standard. Specifically, “out of control” connotes a certain absolute totality of the commercial marijuana industry in Mendocino County.

Also, according to the Yes on B website, “The root of the problem is that county officials don’t know if voters want them to take any action against profit-seeking commercial marijuana growing that masquerades as ‘medical marijuana” (http://www.yesonbcoalition.org). By setting the phrase “medical marijuana” in quote marks and associating the term with the negative connotation “profit-seeking commercial,” Measure B proponents are able to create, and manipulate, a subtle fear of marijuana cultivators, regardless of the rationale for growing.

Similarly, the Yes on B campaign declares, “We became a magnet for ‘no limits’ commercial growers who moved here – often into residential neighborhoods like yours” (http://www.yesonbcoalition.org). Here the group uses the fear of limitless criminal marijuana production taking over all aspects of residential life in Mendocino County. Yes on B also uses the metaphor “magnet” to allude to the lack of control marijuana growers possess in coming to Mendocino County; the commercial growers cannot help themselves from moving to Mendocino County because of the confusing rules regarding medical marijuana.

The Yes on B supporters have also injected low-level xenophobia into the debate. A Ukiah Daily Journal editorial stated, “The No on B campaign is clearly getting major funding from marijuana advocates outside the county and this week saw the effects of letting out-of-county controllers make the decisions for them” (May 15, 2008). Here, the use of “outside” and “out-of-county” establishes a difference between county residents and non-residents, equating the non-residents with negative pathos.

An ad hominem attack is also used in the May 15 issue of the Ukiah Daily-Journal. The editorial states, “The reason Measure B has the support it does is because it is reasonable and effective way to say ‘Enough!’ to the commercial marijuana growers who have made our county their playground and are trying still to convince us that we won’t be able to survive without them.”

The editorial equates the opponents of Measure B as criminal pot growers and, by extension, anybody who would disagree with that view. The writer’s intent here is to develop a sense of anxiety or fear in the reader over the potential for being considered a pot grower.

marijuana seedThe organized campaign in support of Measure B is not the only supporter that uses appeals to fear in arguing for the measure’s passage. Fort Bragg resident Barbara Clark, in a letter addressed to the Fort Bragg Advocate-News’ editor, wrote, “…I cannot take my grandchildren to the places where I took my children because of fear for their safety, because of illegal marijuana. Growing marijuana whether it is one plant, hundreds or thousands, if it is sold it is commercial…

As a mother, protect my children, grandchildren and generations to come. Let us be free to roam and live in our beautiful county without fear” (A5. May 15, 2008).

Here, Clark explicitly expresses fear of the potential violence of discovering an illicit garden. She also offers the implied issue of Measure B being a final solution, for “generations to come,” to the question of medical marijuana limits.

The “No on B” campaign is as littered with appeals to pathos as the “Yes on B” campaign. For example, in a “No on B” flier, opponents of the measure state, “Measure B, which seeks to overturn Measure G, DOES NOT ‘protect the rights of medical marijuana patients.

‘ Rather it REDUCES the amount individual patients may grow to the minimum allowable under state law, subjecting patients to felony arrest, prosecution, property confiscation, even jail for anything over 6 plants.” The No on B group is presenting the fear of jail for medical marijuana patients as a reason to not vote for Measure B.

Likewise, when the group writes, in the same flier, that “Mendocino County will not be made safer by cracking down on small use growers.

Instead, it will be made less safe by diverting police resources.” This time the appeal is modified to allude to possible arrest of medical marijuana patients by deputies and police officers who are better used suppressing commercial cultivation on public lands.

Mendocino County has been associated with marijuana cultivation for several decades. The debate over the legalization of specific aspects of cannabis has resulted in an unfortunate situation of professional pot growers using medical marijuana laws and regulations to their profit; the supporters of Measure B are attempting to offer well-reasoned arguments seasoned with fear and prejudice.

Measure B may be a flawed piece of county legislation, but the supporters have not sufficiently defended it and the detractors have not effectively attacked the proposed ordinance.