Life in Atascadero often gives the impression of calm with the problems of the world far away. Unfortunately, there are aspects of the world we can’t ignore and some of it is coming to a neighborhood near you sooner than expected. Talking to County Supervisor Lynn Compton this weekend I learned that the marijuana industry has big plans for our county. County staffers working the issue of permits for marijuana grows and dispensaries proposed having as many as 100 such sites in the county with 59 of them being located north of Cuesta Grade.
I’m not really surprised by this as for decades the county government used the north county as a dumping ground for anything they didn’t want or couldn’t accommodate south of the Grade. Some of our worst hodgepodge development is a result of county planners using our communities as a waste repository for bad ideas. The plan to put a majority of the marijuana sites in our communities is just another example of the abuse we’ve had to endure for many years. According to Supervisor Compton, some officials want to increase marijuana sites to 500 and our county become an “end-point destination” for marijuana aficionados, even though it may turn some of our neighborhoods into something resembling skunk farms (marijuana plants smell really bad).
There are other down sides to this plan, another “state mandate” that we must accommodate. Marijuana uses a lot of water and while Atascadero has a fairly good water supply within our aquifer, bringing in an industry that sucks water like a dry sponge may alter that balance to our detriment. A small grow in south county on a few acres used more water in a month than four adjacent households used in a year. Much of the north county has a severe water problem, especially the eastern sections; I don’t know how bringing in an industry whose mainstay is a water-intensive crop is a good idea.
Other downsides are dark: marijuana is still an illegal controlled substance under federal law and isn’t likely to change anytime soon. Accordingly, growers can’t hold bank accounts; it’s a cash business and liable to attract violence and crimes of opportunity. Furthermore, California only consumes about 20% of the marijuana it grows which means it’s a major exporter to other states, attracting drug cartels that will not look kindly upon “legal” growers cutting into their business. I would expect an increase in drug-related violent crime to accompany the industry, bringing a type of crime we usually only read about occurring elsewhere.
Federal agents may well look upon local “legal grows” as targets of opportunity with U.S. Attorney’s looking to make a reputation seeking out easy convictions and asset forfeitures. The latter is a tool of choice for the Feds as it reaps millions of dollars for federal law enforcement programs, judges and prosecutors; our new U.S. Attorney General has stated he intends to make liberal use of the asset forfeiture program. If you’re a landlord, don’t believe for a moment that the State of California will be able to shield you if your tenant (commercial, agriculture or residential) grows weed on your property and the Feds bust him once he reaches the federal illegal drug threshold (it varies by drug) and they seize your property.
If you live in a quiet residential neighborhood or own a small business, the guy next door may radically change your quality of life if his business or lifestyle includes growing marijuana, first with the smell at harvest time and then with the quality of his clientele. I’m sure it will be great for business, just not yours. The Atascadero City Council will meet jointly with the Planning Commission on August 29th to discuss these issues.
Regarding riot and murder in Charlottesville: the mayhem we witnessed over the weekend was experienced by some of our local citizens throughout 2016. They dared go to Trump rallies during the election campaign, only to be physically assaulted by “anti-fascist” thugs who were really fascists but too poorly read in history to realize what they represented. Trump supporters who travelled to San Jose were violently assaulted as the police watched and the media ignored their plight. This weekend, exceptionally violent and despicable racists, Nazis, Marxist-anarchists and assorted thugs collided in Virginia and while beating each other’s heads managed to murder a young woman. The police watched and then withdrew. This happened in the German Weimar Republic in the 1920’s; Nazis and Communists battled in the streets, the police watched and withdrew and their nascent democracy was destroyed. Tyranny comes in many forms but it feeds on intolerance, be it from the “alt-Right” or the “alt-Left.” Freedom has never been the natural state of man; you have to work to preserve it and right now, America isn’t doing a very good job to keep it.