Measure D: Calaveras voters are rejecting cannabis farming regulation

No on D campaign organizer Vicky Reinke, left, and Supervisor-elect Dennis Mills, also an opponent of Measure D, are all smiles Tuesday night after early returns showed that the Measure appeared headed for defeat. “Something else has to happen,” Mills said. “The voters are rejecting what’s there now and the ones (on the Board of Supervisors) who voted for what’s there now.”

Measure D, a voter initiative to establish permanent regulation for cannabis businesses in Calaveras County, was  defeated Tuesday with 9,479 (54 percent) voting no, and 8,023 (46 percent) voting yes.

Although the text of the measure primarily addresses issues such as zoning for cannabis businesses and rules for things like setbacks, fencing and noise, opponents see it more as a referendum on whether the industry should be allowed to exist. Many of those who campaigned against Measure D are also supporters of a ballot initiative to ban commercial cannabis production that could be on a ballot as early as May of 2017.

Proponents, in contrast, see Measure D as the best hope to regulate the county’s hundreds of marijuana farms. Measure D, unlike the temporary urgency ordinance currently regulating cannabis farms, makes no use of the word “medical.” Proponents say that was done so that the rules would still apply to farms that grow recreational marijuana, something that could happen soon if California voters legalize recreational use by approving Proposition 64, which was also on Tuesday’s ballot.

The bitter divide between the two campaigns was reflected in the comments of voters exiting polling places on Tuesday.

“I am totally against cannabis cultivation other than for medicinal purposes,” said Brian Bates, 72, of Angels Camp. “I think it will bring too much distraction to the county.” Bates said that he particularly sees widespread commercial cannabis production as a threat to the “safety for the kids.”

Jerry McKay, 61, of Angels Camp, in contrast, voted yes on Measure D. He compares those who want to ban marijuana to advocates of alcohol prohibition in the 1920s.

“People need to get over this thing about marijuana. They are not going to stop it from being grown. They need to grow up and get over it,” McKay said of those who seek to ban the industry.

Some voters took intermediate positions, favoring regulation of medical marijuana but not complete legalization.

Robin Roberts, a truck drive from San Andreas who voted for Trump, split his vote on the marijuana measures at the county library in San Andreas. He voted yes on measure D, but no on Proposition 64.

“I don’t think it should be recreational,” he said. “I’m a truck driver; we have enough crazies on the road.”

Some Measure D opponents say they simply don’t want the industry in the county.

“Primarily because I am concerned about the population that would be brought here,” said Pamela Moore, 58, of Angels Camp. “I don’t think they are looking to make a home.”

Moore said she is also concerned that the industry will be a negative influence on local families. “I don’t like it being so prominent and available to our youth,” she said.

Former Calaveras County Supervisor Tom Tryon, a rancher who is seeking to register a cannabis farm, said he voted for Measure D even though he would prefer full legalization without any requirement that growers register. Tryon, a libertarian, said he voted for Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson.

Matt McCloskey, 30, a San Andreas handyman, shares Tryon’s libertarian bent. McCloskey said he voted for Johnson. “I’ve been a registered Libertarian since I was 18; it was definitely the best option for voting this time.”

Like Tryon, McCloskey also split his vote on the local cannabis measures, voting no on Measure C and yes on Measure D. “I voted against Measure C (taxing local growers) because it was written by the Board of Supervisors,” he said. “I voted for yes on D because it all needs to be regulated. People need to respect their neighbors.”

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