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Repeal Sought Of Landmark Initiative

Herb Fellow

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UKIAH - A campaign is under way to repeal a landmark Mendocino County measure that decriminalized the personal use of marijuana, a first in the United States when the local initiative was passed by voters in 2000.

Measure G won by a 58-42 percent margin and was seen then as a way for local people to use up to 25 marijuana plants per individual for medical reasons without fear of prosecution.

Former District Attorney Norman Vroman and former Sheriff Tony Craver embraced the measure, easing local enforcement efforts against dope growers claiming to be medical marijuana providers. In doing so, Vroman and Craver ignored sharply lower state limits imposed by voter-approved Proposition 215, a statewide medical marijuana initiative.

But since then, the county's pot-growing notoriety has fueled a backlash against surging production under the guise of medical marijuana.

Now, a coalition of county lawmakers, business leaders and community activists are pressing for Measure G's repeal. They say it's time to "take back our county" from an influx of outside marijuana growers and field workers. An estimated 2,000 marijuana "trimmers" are believed to have shown up for this fall's pot harvest.

The anti-Measure G group is petitioning the county Board of Supervisors to voluntarily put the issue back on the ballot, and let local voters take a second look at a proposition that critics believe helped foster the county's national reputation as a haven for marijuana growers.

Organizer Dennis Smart said county supervisors will be asked at the board's Jan. 8 meeting to allow Measure G repeal advocates to avoid a lengthy and potentially costly signature gathering drive by agreeing to place the repeal on the June 3 primary ballot.

Two weeks ago, the county board split 3-2 to limit medical pot cultivation to 25 plants per parcel of land.

In recent years, illicit marijuana production has created a flourishing underground economy in the county that now dwarfs in dollar value longtime agriculture-related operations such as timber production, wine grapes and pear orchards.

County Supervisor Jim Wattenburger, a supporter of the anti-Measure G drive, said an outside consultant hired a year ago to assess the county's economy found that marijuana-related revenue accounts for as much as 75 percent of income generated locally.

Ukiah City Councilman John McCowen, an opposition candidate to Wattenburger, said he's in agreement that voters take a second look at Measure G and its role in fueling a pot-based economy.

"It's clear there's a great deal of public frustration with current levels of abuses associated with the widespread commercial cultivation and sale of marijuana in the county," McCowen said.

He said the issue transcends politics. "As far as I know, all of the announced candidates are in favor of putting the Measure G issue back in front of voters," he said.

Ron Orenstein, a former Willits councilman, wrote in public commentary published last week that it's time for a second look.

The "benign intent" of Measure G has "turned into a nightmare," Orenstein said.

Orenstein said "growers abused the good intentions of voters by growing as much marijuana as they wanted, wherever they wanted."

Source: The Press Democrat
Copyright: 2007 The Press Democrat
Contact: Staff Writer Mike Geniella at 462-6470 or mgeniella@pressdemocrat.com.
Website: Repeal sought of landmark initiative | Early Edition Santa Rosa Press Democrat // News for California's North Bay and Redwood Empire
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