This is a letter I sent a few days ago to a member of the Board of Supervisors of Shasta County.
Disclaimer: I do not grow marijuana or use marijuana, nor do I represent anyone who is in or seeks to be in the marijuana growing business. I just think that the county is passing up a serious opportunity
It seems very likely that recreational use of marijuana will be legalized in California by 2020 at the latest and probably by 2016. Unless there is some major disaster in Colorado or Washington, it looks like that will happen. A major disaster is unlikely because the nature of marijuana is such that it does not contribute to violent behavior (except, of course when there is a black market. A black market in marshmallows would create violence). The following about marijuana seems uncontroversial.
- Pharmacologically, it is a soporific (unless you are talking about synthetic forms, which I am not). The point is that you do not find people smoking fighting pot, but fighting whiskey (or fighting cabernet) is common.
- According to Mayor LaGuardia of New York, who testified before Congress against the proposition of making marijuana illegal, the primary difference between tea houses and bars in New York City was that the cops were almost never called to the tea houses. Just as now, they were called to the bars a lot.
- There is no reported case of marijuana causing death due to overdose. The user falls asleep long before they get to that point. Operating vehicles or equipment while smoking is very dangerous, but so is operating vehicles or equipment while drinking or sick or tired etc.
- Some people find the smell of marijuana gardens offensive. Some people find a lot of smells offensive. Because of allergies, hay bothers the dickens out of me. People raise hogs, chickens, dairy cattle etc and do it in a way that minimizes the impact on others. Drive From Chicago into Indiana some time. There is a vegetable oil plant there that will burn your eyeballs if the wind is blowing the wrong way. Any slaughterhouse will get you if you happen to be down wind. Nobody suggests shutting down any of these other enterprises due to smell. Enclosing marijuana gardens inside buildings is also not the answer, if for no other reason than the fact that the operation will suddenly require huge amounts of electricity to replace the solar power it can get just from being outside.
I am told that Shasta County is a prime place to grow marijuana. Marijuana doesn’t need a lot of water or very good soil. It does need a lot of sun. When it is legalized, there will be a lot of it grown in California. If the County gets ready for that with regulations for sensible, outdoor farming that is legal and in the open, we will stop the damage being done to our public lands by illegal farmers and go a long way to replace the economic damage done to our community by the changes in logging that have occurred, in a way that will have little negative impact on the community. It will inject millions into the local economy and hugely increase the taxable value of real estate that is taxed as scrub oak and manzanita now.
I am willing to bet that someone who had 20 acres of Shasta County Clay could raise a pretty sizable marijuana crop in the middle of it, leaving a buffer that would keep the smell from bothering anyone. It might make sense to require someone who is growing marijuana to have a set back of at least 600 feet from property line to crop. That would leave our hypothetical 20 acre guy with over half of his property to cultivate, well away from his neighbors. Anyone who has trouble with the smell that is coming from two football fields away is like me with hay. Hay isn’t the problem, my nose is the problem.
It is going to come, and I would like to see our county government get out in front of the issue and plan for it to do us as much good and cause as little harm as possible.
The older I get, the better I was.
Dugan Barr has practiced law in Redding since 1967. He has tried more than 200 civil jury cases to verdict. He is married and has five children. The offices of Barr and Mudford, LLP, are at 1824 Court St. in Redding and can be reached at 243-8008.