Cannabis mea­sures ap­proved by vot­ers

Also nar­rowly ap­proved is a mea­sure that al­lows green­house farm­ers to grow mar­i­juana sprouts

The Mercury News Weekend - - LOCAL NEWS - 2018 ELEC­TION By Lisa M. Krieger lkrieger@ba­yare­anews­group.com

Bay Area vot­ers ush­ered in a slew of new cannabis tax mea­sures Tues­day, as lo­cal govern­ment of­fi­cials rush to get in on what they see as a po­ten­tial wind­fall in tax rev­enue.

The rush even oc­curred in cities where cannabis sales and cul­ti­va­tion is not yet ap­proved, such as Half Moon Bay, to get taxes in place in case that changes.

Half Moon Bay, Mor­gan Hill, Moun­tain View, Santa Clara, Red­wood City, Daly City, South San Fran­cisco, Emeryville, Union City, San Fran­cisco and un­in­cor­po­rated Con­tra Costa County all passed lo­cal cannabis taxes by large mar­gins — de­spite op­po­nents’ con­cern that it would boost the price of weed, un­der­min­ing Cal­i­for­nia’s fledg­ling le­gal pot in­dus­try and driv­ing con­sumers un­der­ground.

A dif­fer­ent Half Moon Bay cannabis mea­sure is hold­ing on by a nar­row mar­gin, sug­gest­ing that the town’s three green­house farm­ers will be al­lowed to grow le­gal mar­i­juana sprouts in “nurs­eries.” But res­i­dents re­jected other mea­sures that would have ex­panded cul­ti­va­tion and sales in the tra­di­tional coastal town.

If the mea­sure con­tin­ues to lead — it was ahead by only 67 votes in a 51.5 to 48.5 per­cent tally Thurs­day af­ter­noon — it would help farm­ers such as 72-year- old “Farmer” John Muller, for­mer mayor and long­time pump­kin farmer, who seeks to rent out his di­lap­i­dated green­houses as a place for the

baby plants.

The town, famed for its pump­kins, will not al­low the grow­ing of adult psy­choac­tive plants in green­houses or other lo­ca­tions, or sale of ma­ture plants or cannabis prod­ucts. Cannabis is fiercely op­posed by the town’s Catholic church, a com­mit­tee of high school par­ents and oth­ers who warned it will change the town’s small- town char­ac­ter, and vot­ers re­jected three bal­lot mea­sures that would have al­lowed its cul­ti­va­tion and sale.

But they were swayed by their com­pas­sion for Muller, “who has done a lot of good for the com- mu­nity and is very pop­u­lar here,” said Rick South­ern, a par­ent on Half Moon Bay High School’s Health and Well­ness Com­mit­tee, who sought to sus­pend all com­mer­cial cul­ti­va­tion, pro­cess­ing and sale of cannabis for two to three years un­til more re­search can be done. “Peo­ple felt that if it was the only way he could stay on his farm, they wanted to pro­vide sup­port.”

The de­feat of the other mea­sures shows that “a lot of peo­ple are un­com­fort­able with hav­ing more com­mer­cial­iza­tion in town, whether it be adult plants, re­tail sales or man­u­fac­tur­ing,” South­ern said.

The re­sults do not rep­re­sent the fi­nal vote. The county has 30 days to fi- nal­ize re­sults.

“It is a be­gin­ning,” Muller said on Wed­nes­day morn­ing, as he was feed­ing his chick­ens, af­ter a rest­less night of watch­ing elec­tion re­turns.

If nurs­eries are ap­proved, “we have to make sure it moves for­ward in the proper man­ner, and en­sure it is done right,” said Muller, a reg­is­tered Repub­li­can and Viet­nam War vet­eran who was born on a San Gre­go­rio dairy farm and has never used cannabis, but needs ad­di­tional in­come to sus­tain his small 18-acre farm. “If done prop­erly, with li­cens­ing and per­mit­ting, we will look to move in the fu­ture with po­ten­tial new plant­ing.”

In ad­di­tion to Muller’s Day­light Farms, two other Half Moon Bay busi­nesses — ivy top­i­ary grower Schick­en­berg Nurs­ery and in­door flower and herb grower Rocket Farms — would be el­i­gi­ble to grow cannabis seedlings.

Op­po­nents fear that nurs­eries could lead to ex­pan­sion of large- scale op­er­a­tions, bring­ing out- oftown work­ers, per­haps crim­i­nals, to the quaint and iso­lated coast. It was also op­posed by some of the town’s Latino res­i­dents, who fear that their youth could be lured to cannabis work or that un­doc­u­mented farm work­ers would be de­ported if there’s a bust of a crop that’s still il­le­gal un­der fed­eral law.

In un­in­cor­po­rated San Ma­teo County, cannabis cul­ti­va­tion is al­lowed in ex­ist­ing green­houses on the coast. But few ex­ist­ing green­houses meet the stan­dards.

In re­sponse, the San Ma­teo County Board of Su­per­vi­sors on Tues­day ap­proved amend­ments that ex­pand where cannabis can be grown. Specif­i­cally, the county re­duced buf­fers be­tween cannabis grow­ing and schools and homes from 1,000 feet to 600 feet; elim­i­nated a 100-foot buf­fer around a cul­ti­va­tor’s prop­erty line; and gave county of­fi­cials the dis­cre­tion to waive or mod­ify se­cu­rity or sur­veil­lance re­quire­ments where cannabis is grown.

Out­side Cal ifor­nia , Michi­gan vot­ers ap­proved adult sales of recre­ational cannabis, mak­ing it the 10th U. S. state to le­gal­ize mar­i­juana, and the first in the Mid­west. Mis­souri and Utah gave the green light to med­i­cal mar­i­juana.

Wed­nes­day’s sur­prise res­ig­na­tion of At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions, an out­spo­ken op­po­nent of all uses of mar­i­juana, also cre­ated a buzz in the cannabis com­mu­nity.

“This move by the pres­i­dent opens the door for the mar­i­juana in­dus­try,” wrote Nathaniel Geoghe­gan of CMW Me­dia, rep­re­sent­ing cannabis busi­nesses, “and begs the ques­tion: are we go­ing to see fed­eral le­gal­iza­tion sooner than ex­pected?”

STAFF FILE PHOTO

Strug­gling to sur­vive on pump­kins and pro­duce, long­time fam­ily farmer and coastal icon “Farmer” John Muller hopes to grow pot, a new and more eco­nom­i­cally sus­tain­able crop, at his farm in Half Moon Bay.

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