OPINION: Mike Sweeney’s fear and loathing of the ballot

In which the argument against AF goes gonzo.

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I approach the November ballot with fear and loathing.

How am I supposed to intelligently vote on 17 state propositions and five county measures? They comprise thousands of pages of law covering complex issues.  

Often these propositions are some kind of trick. They appear to be one thing when actually they are the exact opposite of what the advertising tells us.

Editor Jim Shields put it nicely in the Mendocino Observer:  “All too often now, the initiative is used by a wide array of special interest groups…All of these special interests have one thing in common. When they are unsuccessful in getting elected representatives to sponsor and carry proposed legislation they desire, they use the initiative process in an attempt to cut themselves a better deal.”

We saw this corruption of the initiative process in 2011 when DDR tried to amend the General Plan to change the last big industrial property into another big-box shopping center.

Now we see the same kind of attempt with Measure AF, the “Mendocino Heritage Act.”   The special interest is a group of marijuana growers and dispensaries that want to get a whole lot bigger. They have raised a pile of money — admitting to $50,000 at last disclosure — and are telling voters that their 60-page measure will provide “regulation, environmental protection, and taxes to fund roads, mental health, and emergency & fire services.”

What a hoax. Measure AF would do exactly the opposite on every point.

Instead of providing regulation, Measure AF would abolish any effective enforcement of limits on marijuana activity. The sheriff would be explicitly banned from criminal enforcement, and violation of a marijuana permit or failure to have a permit at all would trigger just a $100 civil citation. And there is no mechanism to actually collect any fines.

Without any credible enforcement, all of Measure AF’s supposed rules would be a joke.

As for environmental protection, Measure AF would authorize an explosion in marijuana cultivation in every zoning district in the unincorporated area. Groups such as Willits Environmental Center, Audubon Society, Native Plant Society, and Ukiah Trail Group point out this means an accelerated depletion of water resources, clear-cutting of forestland, poisoning of wildlife, and other impacts of the marijuana boom.

And how about those taxes? County Tax Collector Sheri Schapmire in her letter of September 29 said that Measure AF provides no mechanism she could use to actually collect a dime.

When pressed, the Yes on AF campaign claims that any defects in the measure could be fixed by the Board of Supervisors. What they don’t say is that Measure AF explicitly bans any amendments until June 2018 and then only if they “further the purposes and intent” of the Measure. That’s legal talk that means, “We’ll sue to block any amendment we don’t like.”

Also left unsaid by Yes on AF is that their measure would void the County’s existing rules for marijuana in County Code Section 9.31 and block the proposed comprehensive ordinance that the Board of Supervisors approved on August 18 and sent out for environmental review.

Luckily, the “civil society” of Mendocino County has stepped forward to denounce this exercise in deception. As of October 14, 23 organizations including local governments,  environmental groups, fire and police, neighborhood groups, and newspapers have recommended “No on Measure AF.”

It’s not a vote for or against marijuana. It’s a vote on whether Mendocino County will become the plaything of a special interest.


Mike Sweeney is a member of the No on Measure AF Committee.

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