Splitting the pot
Medical cannabis activist disappointed in Measure L loss, sees hope in Prop. 64 approval
As of yesterday (Nov. 9), adults 21 and older in the state of California can smoke weed legally. They can also grow it—up to six plants apiece—and before too long will be able to purchase it at dispensaries, too. Proposition 64, approved by 56 percent of Californians—and 52 percent of Butte County voters—legalizes recreational marijuana.
But local voters weren’t so stoked on Measure L. That initiative, brought forth by the Inland Cannabis Farmers’ Association, called for the commercialization of medical marijuana. To Jessica MacKenzie, who heads that group, the result was surprising.
“In Butte County, over 50 percent of the population voted in favor of Proposition 64. So, why did 60 percent vote against L?” she said by phone Wednesday morning. “I thought the two numbers would be the same. The only explanation I can think of is that the fear-mongering worked.”
By “fear-mongering,” MacKenzie was referring to glossy mailers that she says misrepresented Measure L. They said, among other things, that the initiative would cause more gang activity, would lead to a proliferation of pot shops and would allow for the degradation of the environment. None of those things are true, MacKenzie charges, and some were even mentioned during a public meeting of the Board of Supervisors, which came out against Measure L.
“They said there were going to be dispensaries on every corner, and growing everywhere. And county staff never bothered to correct those errors [in the public eye],” she said. “I always thought we were at risk for being negatively affected by that.”
Measure L, which would have allowed for dispensaries, manufacturing and commercial growing of medical cannabis, isn’t a complete loss, however. ICFA will continue to advocate for patients and growers and hopes the county will come together with the association and others to create an ordinance that allows dispensaries in Butte County, she said.
“Right now, there’s no way our farmers can come out and be legitimate. There’s no path to licensing,” she said. “Which means there’s no way for them to stand apart from the cartels and rogue grows and folks who don’t want to play by the rules.”
Prop. 64 is a game-changer, however, and MacKenzie is interested to see how it plays out in Butte County. She worries that without a regulatory structure for selling medical cannabis, the local landscape will take a turn for the worse. Without dispensaries, she argues, and with the newfound ability of every adult (21 and older) to grow up to six plants, there will be lots of little grows with no supervision instead of fewer, larger gardens governed by licensing rules.
“But, I didn’t think Trump was going to be elected, so what do I know?” she quipped.
Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey has come out as opposed to dispensaries, both medical and recreational. MacKenzie hopes that local voters’ approval of Prop. 64 will encourage further dialogue, however.
“We know more every day,” she said. “More counties are doing things—some well, some not so well. We’ll continue to propose paths toward what we think are sensible solutions.”