Political Fix (2 March, 2017)

Getting into the Weeds on the Pot Issue

What’s the only problem with smoking marijuana? It means your stash just got a little smaller.

After writing a half dozen articles on the legalization of pot this is the most accurate statement I’ve heard yet.

The vagueness of Proposition 64 and rumors have lead to a lot of misinformation. City councils, the media, and regular citizens don’t seem to have a grasp of the issue.

Before we get into the “weeds” of the issue, though, let’s review some fun facts.

It is true that Tulare and Kings County voted against Proposition 64. But not every town in each of the counties felt the same.

Farmersville, Lindsay and Woodlake all voted for legalizing the recreational use of pot. It is also interesting to note that these towns voted overwhelmingly for Hilary Clinton.

These largely Hispanic communities obviously voted against Mr. Trump because of his views on immigration, but it is unclear why a town like Dinuba would vote against pot by a large margin and these three towns would vote in favor.

Kings County rejected Proposition 64 with 56% voting no and 44% in favor. Avenal came the closest to accepting the legalizing pot with a tied vote.

Assuming Makes An Ass of You and Me.

After Proposition 64 passed one might assume you could go buy an ounce or two of pot for your personal use. It would also make sense that, on your way home, you could not stop at the neighborhood park and light up in public.

Both assumptions would be incorrect.

Proposition 64 made it legal to smoke pot in the privacy of your own at home and grow up to six plants. You can also possess, while out in public, up to one ounce of pot, which would fill a sandwich baggy. But, there is nowhere in California to legally buy recreational marijuana.

The sale of pot won’t be legal until January 2018 when the Bureau of Marijuana Control starts issuing licenses. In addition, don’t count on running down to your local 7-Eleven for a pack of pot cigarettes. No store with a liquor license will be allowed to get a recreational marijuana business license.

Only those businesses that have a local license to sell recreational pot will get a state license. The law was written so cities and counties can ban the sale of pot, and it seems that if the Central Valley has its way, you will never be able to buy it here.

Rumor has it that Hanford has approved the retail sale of marijuana. In reality, Hanford is still waffling on approving a lucrative medical marijuana grow facility in its industrial park and has unanimously rejected the idea of dispensaries. The facility has the potential for bringing in $14 million a year in tax revenue. The city is a long way from approving the sale of pot.

Do You Mind If I Smoke?

It would make sense to equate smoking pot in public as akin to drinking alcohol in public. But because of the way Proposition 64 was worded, law enforcement cannot. Law enforcement has had to use cigarette smoking ordinances as its guide on how to enforce smoking pot in public.

According to a Lindsay police officer, it is illegal to smoke pot unless allowed by a local ordinance, or within 1,000 feet of schools, day care centers, and other places where children gather. The hitch is it didn’t dawn on anyone to pass local ordinances banning smoking pot in public.

In the Foothills Sun Gazette, Lindsay Public Safety Director Chris Hughes said “citizens are fully in their rights to smoke marijuana as long as there are no signs saying they cannot.”

It was difficult to believe that in the absence of a “No Smoking” sign one could get stoned in public. But a Lindsay police officer confirmed the possibility. The police officer explained that there had just been training specifically geared towards dealing with pot in the aftermath of Proposition 64. The officer was literally quoting the California’s Clean Air Act of 1977 while trying to explain to me how the police enforce the use of marijuana.

The federal government categorizes marijuana as a Schedule 1 Drug on the same level as heroin. Local law enforcement, on the other hand, finds its guidance on how to treat pot in terms of air quality issues and second hand smoke.

“There is a lot of clean up legislation that needs to be passed,” said an employee of the Tulare County’s District Attorney’s office.

What’s Up With Coalinga?

Ocean Grown Extracts, a medical marijuana company, purchased Coalinga’s abandoned prison for $4.1 million. The prison used to hold 500 inmates but has sat empty for five years, becoming an economic liability. The purchase immediately relieved this dusty little town of a $3.3 million deficit. The massive medical marijuana farm will generate 100 jobs and a million dollars in tax revenue per year.

Coalinga has since gone all-in on pot, voting in favor of a pot dispensary and filling its industrial park with marijuana-related businesses. Coalinga may end up the only place in the Central Valley where you can buy recreational pot. Who knew?

Fresno, Kings and Tulare Counties’ supervisors have consistently banned any possibility of pot dispensaries. Their message has been, “Don’t even think about it.” Fresno County has gone so far as fining their residents $1000 per illegal pot plant, a fine that has been challenged in court as being excessive.

So what has the Coalinga City Council been smoking? I’m not sure, but there sure are a few ironies surrounding their new marijuana facility.

Irony number one is that Bob Marley’s youngest son, Damian Marley is the owner of Ocean Grown Extracts and developer of Coalinga’s marijuana facility.

Irony number two is that the same prison that used to incarcerate people who grew or sold pot is now a pot growing facility.

Irony number three is that Mr. Marley’s other pot growing location is a 3,000-square-foot dispensary in downtown Denver, just across from Mile High Stadium.

Ocean Grown Extracts should have already harvested its first crop and is expected to branch out into growing recreational pot. Coalinga has already received their first pot dividend check.

Medical Marijuana vs. Recreational

Whatever you do, do not let your medical marijuana identification card expire. Councilmember Phil Cox brought up a salient point during the Visalia City Council meeting: medical marijuana will be much cheaper to buy than recreational pot.

Layers of taxes await the commercialization of pot, such as a cultivation tax on each plant, the tax on the final product, a state tax and a local tax, none of which are imposed on medical marijuana.

But the best thing about medical marijuana is that you can buy it right now. Anyone can get a medical marijuana ID through a health clinic or even on-line.

Writers of the Compassionate Use Act crafted the measure so that medical cannabis can be used to treat “any condition for which marijuana provides relief.”

So if you walk into a clinic and say “I need some weed to help me cope when my crazy uncle watches Fox News,” voila! You get your prescription.

CannaCanHelp, located in an industrial building in Goshen, serves the medical marijuana needs of Tulare and Kings County.

Just show your medical marijuana ID card and you are allowed in their dispensary. CannaCanHelp existed before the Tulare County board of supervisors completely banned dispensaries, so the company was allowed to be grandfathered in. CannaCanHelp serves 10,000 people a year with their marijuana medical needs.

Their busiest say of the week? Friday.

President Trump Comes to the Rescue

The debate rages about universal healthcare, Russia’s meddling in our elections, our crumbling infrastructure, and our need for immigration reform.

So it makes sense that President Trump finally decided to crack down on those states that have legalized recreational marijuana.

All those pot heads invading 7- Elevens at midnight could pose a threat to our national security if they eat all our potato chips.

I remember in the 1980’s in Berkeley a street comedian, Stoney Burke, got frustrated that more students weren’t showing up to the anti-apartheid protests. He said, let’s shut down all the cafes. That would start a riot.”

It does not bode well that Trump’s administration has been compared to Nixon’s administration at almost every turn. His pussy grabbing, wall building, and travel banning have created some mighty opposition to his administration. But messing with citizens’ access to pot may be like closing all the cafes in Berkeley.

The president might have gone a bridge too far.

And the Meritorious Public Service Award Goes To…

Back in January 2016, Alberto Aguilar handed me a thick envelope with documents detailing the problems at Tulare Regional Medical Hospital (TRMC) and their management company, Healthcare Conglomerates Associates (HCCA.)

The envelope also contained two letters to Assemblyman Devon Mathis to initiate an investigation, both of which went unanswered.

When Joseph Oldenbourg and Dave Adalian met with several doctors working at TRMC, Oldenbourg said “their hair was on fire.”

The doctors were upset by what was happening at the hospital and the fact that the public did not know.

As a result, in March of 2016, Mr. Adalian documented, for the whole world to see, all of the goings-on at the hospital and its contract with HCCA.

Mr. Aguilar lamented that no one would touch the issue. I was soon to discover why.

Before Mr. Adalian’s expose even hit the stands, a powerful Los Angeles law firm threatened to shut the Valley Voice down.

We spent a very tense afternoon debating whether we should destroy the papers and reprint the issue without the hospital article, which might have put the paper out of business.

We decided to call the law firm’s bluff and finished the distribution of the paper, keeping Mr. Adalian’s article up on our website.

Mr. Adalian, along with webmaster Tony Maldonado, went on to report over the course of 2016 about the hospital’s failed Measure I and its lack of an oversight committee, the unaccounted $85 million from the first bond, the layoffs, the secret loan, the lopsided management contract, the recall, and the hospital board election, among other things.

Our writers and the Valley Voice put their professional survival and careers on the line to let the public know what was happening at Tulare’s hospital.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was to hear that the Visalia Times-Delta writers Juan Villa, Jim Houck, Calley Cederlof and Luis Hernandez were awarded the Meritorious Public Service award for their 2016 coverage of TRMC/HCCA.

I enjoy reading all four of these writers, but the announcement of their prestigious award elicited a “really?” from me.

Our staff made meeting audio and a multitude of public documents available for citizens of Tulare and any interested parties, including the Times-Delta. More hospital documents are available on our website than the hospital’s own.

During the course of a year, the Voice scooped the VTD on multiple stories. We did this despite the fact that the VTD is a daily newspaper with a full-time staff of 16 to our part-time staff of five.

Juan Villa, who covered the Tulare Hospital in depth in 2007 when it was obvious that TRMC was not going to finish its tower, did do the Voice the courtesy of citing us twice in 2016.

I enjoy my morning VTD and encourage everyone to go out and get a subscription because they serve the community.

But they are not our competition.

The VTD cannot hold a candle to Valley Voice’s investigative reporting.

So, to rectify the situation, in my capacity as a mom, wife, daughter, and owner of the Valley Voice, I do hereby award the prestigious “Providing a platform to the public, Bringing Justice where Justice has been denied, and Giving a voice to the voiceless” award to the estimable David Adalian and Tony Maldonado.

Hear, hear!

One thought on “Political Fix (2 March, 2017)

  1. Trump is acting guilty!
    Why is Trump so mean? Why does he hate and bash the media so much? He gave a great speech to the congress and I voted for Hillary and am a proud democrat. Then he ruins it by making allegations that Obama tapped his phones. He should be happy he won but he is a “sore winner”. Maybe the Russia story is “fake news” but it sure seems to have legs ha. Trump maybe ill suited by incompetent (and maybe some disloyal people) which it takes a while for new administrations to run but he need to stop listening to these conspiracy talk show hosts on the right. he maybe a republican but he is my president too and every democrat and those who didn’t vote and I want him to succeed!

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