Visiting Alpine County Superior Court Judge Richard D. Meyer issued an order Tuesday that granted a writ of mandate to delete Measure B from a May 2 mail-in ballot.
Meyer was acting as a judge in Calaveras County because both local judges were removed by peremptory challenges exercised by the two sides when the petition was filed earlier this month.
Opponents of Measure B were surprised and happy with the decision, but expressed caution, saying the question of whether the commercial cannabis industry will continue under county regulation now goes before a Board of Supervisors, whose members preferred to have the voters resolve the issue of an absolute ban.
The language of Measure B purported to abolish the commercial cannabis industry in Calaveras County, including growing, processing, transportation, distribution and dispensaries for either medical or recreational marijuana.
The writ of mandate was filed on March 2 by Calaveras Naturals Inc. and Jeremy Carlson, a principal at Little Trees dispensary in Arnold. It named Measure B authors Bill McManus and David Tunno as defendants. Meyer found that language in the initiative failed to meet the state Elections Code and was misleading.
“The language of Measure B failed to substantially comply with the mandated language of Elections Code 9124 …,” Meyer’s decision said. “Moreover, the court finds this is more than a technical semantic shortcoming as the actual language of Measure B is misleading as it infers the measure is seeking voter approval of an action of the Board of Supervisors …”
“I’m definitely happy,” said Carlson on Tuesday afternoon. “We were definitely on the edge of our seats for a few days.”
Court records indicated a ruling might come as early as March 24, but parties had to wait the weekend and two more days before the decision was posted on the Superior Court website.
“Measure B was clearly misleading from the start,” said Carlson. “The people of Calaveras County deserve better. We’re not trying to interfere with an election based on a little technicality.”
He called Measure B a “huge cloud of distraction,” and said he was glad to get it out of the way. Carlson expects that the questions of whether the commercial cannabis industry will continue in Calaveras County and how it will be regulated if it does, will now be addressed by the Board of Supervisors.
“It’s now in the hands of the Board of Supervisors,” said Carlson. “We need to get these supervisors to take the necessary steps.”
That view was shared by at least one supervisor.
“I think this brings the issue back to the Board of Supervisors where it should sit,” said District 2 Supervisor Jack Garamendi on Tuesday. “And I imagine we’ll begin work on it soon.”
In February, the board extended an urgency ordinance governing personal and commercial medical cannabis production and distribution originally enacted in May of 2016. The current ordinance expires in early 2018 or whenever a permanent document goes into effect.
Ratification of a permanent ordinance awaits completion of an environmental impact review that Garamendi said could be completed by June.
Calaveras Cannabis Alliance Executive Director Caslin Tomaszewski first learned about the ruling on Tuesday from a telephone call placed by an Enterprise reporter.
“I’m flabbergasted,” he said. “This sort of thing happening this late in an election is incredibly rare. It was something we were not anticipating. I did not think the violations of the Election Code in Measure B were enough to get it thrown out.”
He said members of his industry association felt the language in Measure B was improper in a number of respects and substantially affected voters’ ability to make a decision. “We want to make sure that whatever is on a future ballot is not Measure B,” he said.
Tomaszewski agrees that the future of the commercial cannabis industry in Calaveras County now lies with the Board of Supervisors.
“The Measure B conversation will remain until the Board of Supervisors acts on the matter,” he said.