The Colusa County Farm Bureau hosted a cannabis workshop for its members on Monday night in Colusa, during which a pair of County Supervisors fielded questions and took comments from a crowd of about 50, gathered at Rocco’s Event Hall.
Supervisors Kent Boes and John Loudon, also members of the county’s cannabis ad-hoc committee, were the two supervisors on hand. The goal of the meeting, according to organizers and the county representatives, was to find to what extent the Colusa County Farm Bureau’s membership was for or against commercial cannabis operations in the unincorporated areas of Colusa County.
“I just want to start this out by saying that, you know, we’re not here to get you to go pro or con on the issue. Our purpose for being here is to find out where you guys are coming from, when it comes to cultivation of marijuana in the county,” Loudon said to open the discussion.
Despite that assertion, that didn’t appear to be the case during the hour-long meeting. Between the two supervisors, it was Loudon who did most of the talking. Almost immediately after his opening comment, and before asking for any feedback from the audience, Loudon appeared to build a case against commercial cannabis cultivation in the county.
“We’ve been researching this issue for the last two months. I’ve talked to numerous county supervisors across the country and got their opinions. I started this process a long time ago, and we will relate those instances to you and give you the benefit of all the research we’ve done so you can get a better feeling of what the impacts will be if we start to do cultivation in Colusa County,” Loudon said.
None of the potential impacts Loudon shared were positive. He did admit that commercial cannabis could bring new revenues to the county, but – because the county is currently in good financial shape – they weren’t necessarily needed. He also said that the kinds of jobs that could be created within the industry “might not be the kinds of jobs you want” in the county.
Loudon shared a letter he received from the District Attorney in Denver, Colo., which included statistics that Loudon described as “phenomenal” – and not in a positive sense.
“The DA who originally led the charge to put regulations that legalized it in Colorado now has completely reversed,” Loudon said. “He is so sorry that he did that, that it just completely blows him away.”
Loudon read some of the alleged negative impacts that the legalization of commercial cannabis has had on Colorado communities, and stated that “everything had gone up from a criminal perspective.”
“The homicides have gone up, because even the legal grows have to put a guy with a rifle on top of a roof to keep people off the property. Burglaries have gone up, sexual assaults have gone up, and believe it or not, car theft went up over 4,000 percent,” he said. “The impacts were so incredible, and he was so sorry he helped legalize it. I talked to a number of the supervisors in the rural communities in Colorado, and they have the same feeling, that their law enforcement is being impacted by all these increases in crime and all the problems they’re having with marijuana.”
Reading the letter from the Colorado district attorney, Loudon said that “marijuana deaths increased 48 percent,” and that there were increases in the numbers of overdoses, vehicle accidents, and emergency room visits and poison control center activities.
The District Attorney from Colorado, as quoted by Loudon, was right about the rapidly rising crime rates in Colorado. Crime rates in the state have, in fact, been rising much faster than the rest of the country, as was reported in the Denver Post in on July 11. How closely the increase in crime is related to the legalization of commercial, recreational marijuana is not entirely clear, however.
The Post article noted that “some lawmakers, police and legal experts partly blame the marijuana industry, claiming that it has lured transients and criminals to the state.” The article in the Post also said that others pointed to different factors as reasons for the increase in crime.
Colorado Rep. Cole Wist, R-Centennial, who serves on the House Judiciary Committee, was quoted in that same article as saying that while it would be naive to say that drug use had not had an effect on crime rates, it wasn’t just marijuana that is having an impact on crime – He also pointed to an increase in the use of heroin and illegal prescription drugs.
After presenting the statistics he had collected, Loudon explained that he was merely informing his constituents of the potential impacts of commercial cannabis operations in Colusa County, and what it would take to mitigate them – he wasn’t necessarily taking a stance.
“We’re taking an on-the-fence approach. If you want us to go for marijuana, we’re all for it. If you want us to ban it completely, we’re all for that too. You’re the ones that are going to tell us what you want in the ordinances,” he said.
That sentiment was echoed by Boes.
“We’re here just to do information gathering. We want to know how you guys feel. Do you want to allow it? Do you not want to allow it?” Boes said. “There’s about 13 or 17 different types of licenses, all the way from outdoor and indoor cultivation to different types of manufacturing, all the way up to retail sale. We have the option to allow them all, ban them all, or anything between.”
Farm Bureau Input
The input from the crowd, while scant, came in the form of both questions and comments. Some Farm Bureau members asked the board to oppose commercial cannabis operations outright. One said that the county needed to “look beyond the carrot” and consider that they were “damaging minds and damaging bodies,” and pointed to other “elicit activities that are attached to (commercial cannabis).” Another said that, in making policy, the board needed to set a good example for the county’s youth, despite California’s decision to legalize recreational cannabis.
Some asked technical questions, including how weed and insect control would work for a potential cannabis crop.
Colusa County Agricultural Commissioner Greg Hinton said that there were currently no pesticides “whatsoever” registered to be used on cannabis, and also noted that there was a question as to whether cannabis would be a commodity or an agricultural product. For his office, as with many others in the county, Hinton said that the state-level legalization of cannabis would have an effect regardless of whether the county allows commercial operations.
Others asked questions regarding enforcement. Loudon said that local county law enforcement agencies are against inviting commercial cannabis operations into the county, and had said that they were not interested in enforcement for civil issues. Boes said county department heads anticipated that a full-blown green light for commercial cannabis would require a number of county departments to add one or two more positions, particularly in the Sheriff’s Office and the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office.
A number of other issues were raised, including a lack of housing to support the influx of jobs created by the industry, banking and tax issues, and more.
While the majority of the questions and comments at Monday’s meeting appeared to come from folks who were opposed to commercial cannabis operations, there were at least two people who indicated they were open to the idea. The last to speak at the meeting was Mitchell Yerxa, whose family’s property at the end of Fifth St. is being proposed as the site for Green Leaf Processors, Inc. – a cannabis manufacturing company. Yerxa pleaded with his fellow Farm Bureau members to keep an open mind regarding the commercial cannabis industry and questioned some of the statistics presented by Loudon during the meeting.
“Somehow, we’ve decided as a county over the last 30 years that new things are bad, that growth is bad,” Yerxa said.
…I just think these numbers are so overblown, and the fear-mongering is so overblown, and I think we need to at least consider this… If you fly over Sites or Stonyford or any of these really rural (communities), it’s in every back yard. Whether it’s legal or not, it’s already happening. I think we can do a better job as a county of regulating it, rather than just saying, ‘Pot is bad. Don’t do it, don’t talk about it, don’t think about it,’ when it’s already being grown and it’s untaxed and unregulated.” ■