Whereas I have written volumes about the county’s misplaced priorities and bureaucratic morass throughout the course of many years, I have scarcely ever accused any county politician or bureaucrat of corruption, notwithstanding the notion of ideological corruption of which there is, and presumably always will be, aplenty.
The reason I am bringing this up has to do with a so-called investigative journalism piece on the development of the county’s marijuana permitting regimen that appeared in the Los Angeles Times a few weeks ago, along with a submission by Jeff Giordano that recently appeared in this paper, based in large part on the L.A. Times piece.
The gist of the articles have it that Supervisors Steve Lavagnino and Das Williams, aka “The Doobie Brothers,” were in the pockets of the pot growers and bent over backwards to help them accordingly. This has to do with the fact that these two board members comprised a sub-committee of the board tasked with working out the details of the permit path. These sub-committee meetings involved staff only. Regardless, Mr. Giordano has gone so far as to demand that District Attorney Joyce Dudley initiate a Grand Jury investigation into the actions of the supervisors and staff.
As somebody who attends Board of Supervisors hearings on a full-time basis, I can tell you without a doubt that while the county did roll out the red carpet for the marijuana industry, they certainly did not do so without imposing myriad conditions on the same. Moreover, there were more than a dozen hearings dealing with the permit path that included rigorous debate due to the fact that Supervisor Janet Wolf was adamantly opposed to marijuana grows, while Supervisor Peter Adam was at best ambivalent. In other words, there was plenty of opportunity for the public to testify before a somewhat sympathetic Board of Supervisors and the county Planning Commission, where the final recommendations were thoroughly debated before being voted on.
I have no doubt in my mind, because they said as much during these public meetings, that the board members and county staff were motivated by the dollar signs they saw in their eyes having to do with the projected revenues that would accrue to the county via taxes imposed on the industry. There is nothing wrong with that, per se; in fact, I wish they would see the bigger dollar signs, along with the benefit of less impacts, available via the oil industry.
To wit, I put no credence whatsoever that any supervisor is legitimately suspect of graft or corruption in this matter. Nor do I believe that any member of the county executive’s office staff is guilty of improprieties. In fact, law enforcement representatives were part of the sub- committee.
Instead of going down this path of spurious allegations, I believe the community’s angst about pot would be better spent asking the supervisors, in all due haste, to require all marijuana grows that have the potential for off-site impacts to be indoors with adequate ventilation control systems to eliminate odors.
Unfortunately, however, this might be of no effect, because, as mentioned previously, hemp, marijuana’s stinky cousin, is about to make its grand entrance into our region. In all likelihood, no controls will be placed on hemp because, unlike marijuana, hemp is a bonafide agricultural crop protected by the county’s right-to-farm act.
Speaking of the right-to-farm act, we need to protect legacy crop farmers from having to withstand the limitations imposed on their operations by the presence of pot being grown next door. In other words, if a buffer is required between marijuana and another crop, the buffer area should be placed on the property of the pot grower.