Bill McManus, chairman of the Committee to Ban Commercial Cultivation.

When first asked by the Enterprise to write a piece about why I am in favor of a ban, my first reaction was, “Wow! This is going to be a pretty easy article to write.” After years of advocating, studying and gathering information, I just knew this would flow onto my computer screen. Boy, was I ever wrong. Looking back over the years, there is now an almost endless number of reasons. Since all of the reasons seem to be intertwined and almost impossible to separate, I will address them in groups.

The first and, potentially, most lethal area of concern, is our fragile environment.

With little or no oversight, marijuana growers have been free to use whatever chemical compounds and products they choose to speed up or enhance growth. With a need for huge quantities of water, many growers have diverted streams, altered runoff areas, reshaped the terrain and drilled extra wells.

Earlier this year, the Sheriff’s Department, along with other agencies, conducted Operation Terminus. With somewhere around 30 sites raided, 157 citations were issued for various environmental violations. The sheriff has reported finding the deadly insecticide Carbodurfan at sites. This chemical has been banned for many years in this country and in other countries around the world. The list of chemical agents found goes on and on. Some of these toxins have a half-life of hundreds or thousands of years. These deadly compounds have been utilized improperly and illegally. In the chemical product world, the “label is the law.” Not one chemical product found on marijuana grows list marijuana as a designated use on the label. With unsafe storage, uncontrolled application, multiple product interactions and no retention safeguards to keep this lethal cocktail onsite, the migration of these products and compounds has already begun. These include algaecides, pesticides, miteticides, rodenticides, fertilizers, foreign soil use, fungicides, herbicides and more. Algae blooms, dead animals, discolored soils, chemical odors,and more are poisoning our once pristine lands and waterways. These pollutants and chemicals are silent killers.

Presently, there are no acceptable protocols in effect to safely deal with these issues.

County employees and contractors, who must enter these killing fields, are not properly trained and equipped to safely conduct their inspections and assessments. Exposures may not materialize into health problems for years or decades. The danger is immediate and lethal for local residents, many of whom depend on well and surface water to maintain livestock, large vegetable and herb gardens, poultry and other small animal herds and flocks for personal consumption and sale.

Calaveras County contains the headwaters of a watershed that provides drinking water to almost 6 million people throughout Central California. Contamination of these water sources could have unimaginable consequences for those customers and result in countless lawsuits involving our county. Once the water is ruined, the price tag of cleanup and legal expenses and fines could easily reach into the billions of dollars. Cleaning up these contaminated sites will be very expensive. Let’s compare a fairly recent environmental contamination cleanup project in our county. The Butte Fire destroyed almost 600 homes. Each burned homesite is a potential toxic site. On average, each burned home site cost $230,000 to remediate. If only half of the estimated marijuana grow sites were contaminated, the cleanup costs would exceed 200 million dollars!

Other noted scientists have estimated the number to be closer to $1 billion!

This is reason alone to ban all commercial cultivation of marijuana.

Other horrific conditions exist within our communities, which have severely impacted our residents. Barking guard dogs, gunfire, generators, junk trailers, rowdy workers, loud music, water trucks destroying private roads, theft of water (both private sources and utility sources), human trafficking, homicides, illegal out-of-state transportation, homelessness, strong odors, light pollution, dilapidated plastic fences, counterfeit money, threats, workers housed in tents, shacks, lean-tos, chicken coops, property thefts and more.

All of this has adversely affected our communities and our once rural lifestyles.

Residents feel trapped in their homes. Others fear they cannot sell their properties without great loss, because they are surrounded by marijuana grows, sometimes two or three deep. Children are no longer free to experience the country style of living.

Marijuana and its byproducts are showing up in our schools in ever increasing quantities and frequency. These conditions justify banning commercial cultivation.

Perhaps more of an intangible but equally important issue is our responsibilities as law abiding citizens. All marijuana activities violate federal law. The myth that marijuana Tetranhydrocannabinol is medicine has been rejected. The Controlled Substance Act (CSA), Schedule 1, lists marijuana. It’s on the list because marijuana is addictive and has no medicinal properties and has not been shown to have any medicinal effect. What kind of society do we want for ourselves and our children? One that ignores laws meant to protect us from the charlatans that would adversely impair our youth from having happy and productive lives for greed and money? What other laws will we ignore because we don’t agree with them? The battle over marijuana should be taking place in the halls of Congress, not our once peaceful and safe neighborhoods. Did you move to this county because of this mayhem and chaos? During the signature gathering for Measure B, I spoke with thousands of county residents. I heard the horror stories and I listened, while staring into tear filled eyes, as I was told of the loss of lifestyles. I felt the trembling handshakes when residents asked what they could do. I saw them again at meetings we held in every niche of the county. I get dozens of phone calls and hundreds of emails from people wanting to know how things will turn out. All I can tell them is that county government has failed them. Instead we battle on till the end, which is quickly approaching. This is, perhaps, the No. 1 reason why I want to see a ban on commercial cultivation.

Bill McManus

Committee to Ban Commercial Cultivation – chairman


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