Supervisor seethes, pot smokers party in wake of medi-pot amendments
“I’m looking for something that really pops,” Kevin Scott explained as he put the finishing touches on a medium-sized joint, at least the third he’d rolled in a half-hour while acting as judge for the Cannabis Cup competition at Harvest Festival 2013, a 420-friendly event held last Saturday (Nov. 16) at the Tuscan Ridge Golf Course.
Scott was one of a handful of judges seated at two tables in the back corner of a pair of 40-by-40-foot tents on the lawn below the course’s clubhouse. The judges’ tables were covered with dishes brimming with marijuana buds and various smoking implements, including a 2-foot-tall bong just to Scott’s right. A nearby table showcased the competitors—jars and plastic bags filled with exotically named strains of pot, such as Purple Urkle, Deadhead 06, R&B, and Girl Scout Cookies. As the judges sampled each, rating them on such merits as look, smell, smoothness and taste, curious onlookers stood nearby, some remarking on the judges’ stamina, others vocally covetous of their positions.
Scott said he’d got the job because he has friends at the Western Plant Science Association, a local organization dedicated to the advancement of cannabis causes, particularly siding with growers in the endless bickering over medical-marijuana cultivation in Butte County. The WPSA hosted the Harvest Festival, now in its second year.
“I’ve had my prescription for about 10 years,” Scott continued after lighting the joint, taking a hit and passing it to a young woman across the table. Further extolling his qualifications, he added, “Plus, I just have a lot of experience in the field.”
The festival was attended by several hundred people. In the nearby clubhouse—where no smoking was allowed, though every other inch of the grounds seemed fair game—local bands Swamp Zen, Wake of the Dead, Pyrx and George Souza & The Funk Brothers played, and VIP attendees (who paid $100 as opposed to $15 for general admission) received gift bags and a catered meal. There were also glass-blowing demonstrations, and booths featuring smoking paraphernalia and other pot-centric wares.
The event did have some organizational problems. Bert “Buddy” Duzy, an initiative coordinator for the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative 2014—an attempt to get a proposition to legalize pot for recreational and industrial uses on next November’s statewide ballot—was scheduled to attend, but unable to confirm his appearance with WPSA organizers.
“I wasn’t able to contact anyone before the event, so I was hoping that someone would call me to confirm that I would be attending, but that didn’t happen either,” Duzy wrote in an email on Wednesday morning (Nov. 20). “I tried to locate the event on my GPS, but it took me to a random-looking spot on a dark highway and I couldn’t find any entrance or road around there.”
The WPSA also didn’t answer post-event calls to provide further details about total festival attendance, funds raised, who won the Cannabis Cup or what the organization’s next maneuver may be, though the event’s webpage at WesternPSA.com summarized the group’s intent: “The goal of the 2013 Festival is to raise funds to put a Dispensary Ordinance on the November 2014, City of Chico’s General Election Ballot, and continue to fight for access to medical marijuana.”
As the WPSA filled its war chest for upcoming battles, medical-marijuana cultivation supporters and those opposed just finished their latest round of confrontation on Nov. 12, when the Butte County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 (with Supervisor Larry Wahl voting nay) to approve amendments to the county’s current ordinance.
That ordinance, approved by the supervisors last spring with the caveat that its effectiveness be revisited after a growing season, was the board’s third attempt at a workable law. It was drafted by an ad-hoc committee made up of constituents on both sides of the issue, including Matt Larkins, a WPSA representative (see “A Grand Compromise,” Newslines, Jan. 24).
At the Nov. 12 meeting, Paul Hahn, the county’s chief administrative officer and clerk of the board, presented the board with two options, presented as Amendments A and B; the former included controversial moves to lower plant counts by eliminating an added allowance for immature plants, and to change the requirement that those who file complaints against grows live within 1,500 feet.
Wahl moved to approve the first set of restrictions, but the move was not seconded. The board eventually opted for the latter option, which requires growers to live in a legal residence with proper, permitted septic and water systems on the land where marijuana is grown, in an effort to address some environmental concerns that have arisen. Civil penalties for non-compliant grows were also doubled.
Wahl was the first to speak after public comment on the issue ran for nearly 90 minutes: “It’s pretty clear from the folks who’ve spoke this morning; the folks who’ve spoken before; the folks who’ve emailed, wrote letters and called and visited mine and other supervisors’ offices, that the people of Butte County want us to take a leadership role in restricting the use of pot-for-profit growing,” he said.
As the conversation continued, Supervisor Steve Lambert said he thought the less-restrictive package was a “pragmatic” deal that everyone could work with, and encouraged attendees who were unhappy “no matter what side of the fence you sit on” to contact their federal and state representatives. Several times during the discussion, supervisors and community speakers lamented a lack of direction and ever-evolving marijuana laws coming from the state and federal levels.
After the second, less restrictive package was approved, Wahl spoke up again. “In absence of solid or firm guidance from the feds or the state, I think it behooves us to take a firm stand on something, even if it might be wrong in two years,” he said.
“We could wait, and wait, and wait and come back, and come back, and come back based on the changes that may or may not happen at the state or federal level. And quite frankly, what they do in Colorado or Washington is of no consequence to what we do here in California or Butte County.
“I think what we are doing today is solidifying the profit of pot growers here in Butte County.”