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On Cannabis Legalization in California

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Message Jon Martin
All around us, the country is mired in an economic depression of
epic proportions. There is an opportunity on the table right now for
the people of California to create a viable industry in the
legalization of cannabis that generates millions of jobs in a time when
jobs are desperately needed. This is a critical juncture, one where we
can ensure the safety of the last "mom and pop" business left in
America, or let massive corporate business steal yet another industry
leaving the economic system of California gutted. AB 390, introduced by
Tom Ammiano, to the California legislative system, is the first piece
of sound politics our state has seen in years. While the bill has many
issues, with swift action in local communities we can work to ensure that the holes left
by AB 390 do not endanger the local businesses and families which it
directly affects.

There are real challenges ahead, both in the legislative field and in
the thriving grey marketplace that has sprung up all over California
since senate bill 420 was ratified in 1996. For the first time since
the founding fathers, Americans can raise cannabis, a crop they know to
be beneficial, sustainable, healthy, and lucrative, without fear of
persecution. In 1637 in Hartford Connecticut, and in the Massachusetts
courts in 1639, an order was placed stating that "all families must
plant one teaspoon of hemp seed. That we might in time have supply of
linen cloth among ourselves." From this same sense of economic
desperation and resolve to best utilize the natural resources at hand,
comes my hope that a similar order would soon stand for California

One issue that needs to be addressed, is worker protection. I have
personally worked on many farms over the years, and while there are a
sizeable number of respectable farmers who treat their workers with
dignity, there are also a large number who don't. Additionally, these
rogue growers often take little responsibility for the quality of their
crop, or for the environmental consequences of their practices,
resulting in ecological damage and substandard medication in a
marketplace that is supposed to foster health as well as bolster the
economy. It has become clear to me that these practices must be
stopped, and that crop quality be made a priority, if this industry is
to be taken seriously. This won't happen if regulators come out to a
farm that is haphazard and run by criminal profiteers. The best course
of action here, is to allow regulation of the industry, so that
irresponsible growers are eventually buried under red tape and fines,
allowing responsible and law abiding citizens to continue in their work
unbothered by outlaws.

The area for which I have the greatest concern, is the intrusion of
corporate entities into the cannabis industry. We must act swiftly and
clearly to raise awareness and keep out the massive agrobusiness giants
and tobacco concerns. Since 1907, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, North Dakota
and several other midwestern states have adopted strict anti-corporate
farming laws. With few exceptions they have done wonders for preserving
family business, ensuring that the ownership of average acreage stays
within family hands and in fact creating provisions for small
corporations created under strict guidelines(such as that one of the
members of the corporation lives and works on the premises, and that
all members live in the county in which the corporation was

These bills are already written and have withstood repeated legal
attacks as recently as 2009, including challenges of constitutionality
and those concerning commerce laws. Our own city of Arcata has banned
the construction of additional corporate stores within its city
limits. In addition, Arcata has even created it's own currency to keep
wealth within the local populace. If given the opportunity, giant
corporations like Monsanto, RJ Reynolds and Philip Morris will
immediately set up shop and begin pushing out the local growers. This
will totally undermine the point of Ammiano's bill - namely, the
creation of jobs and wealth for California citizens. I would suggest
the adoption of plain language city and county ordinances that prohibit
any corporation(except those created under strict guidelines) from
purchasing land or participating in the farming of cannabis in the
respective areas. I think these initiatives would be met with great
enthusiasm by the people of Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties
especially, as their livelihood has long been based on the local
production and distribution of this plant.

If we do this right, we can create millions of jobs, for our
struggling friends and families in local communities, while also
creating billions in tax revenue in a state on the verge of financial
collapse. Farmers in the central valley squeezed by drought and the
need to produce crops with high production costs, would have the
alternative to produce hemp or cannabis. The home grower will no longer
experience fear, persecution and jail time. We must follow the
examples of the hemp growing Virginia colonists, and raise awareness
about better possibilities.

Either we help each other and California, or we allow our one
homegrown industry to be buried in successive corporate takeovers of
large swaths of land. It's up to us! I hope we collectively make the
right decision.
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just a person concerned for persons
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