by Richard Miller
As longtime cannabis activists, residents, and active members in cannabis politics, we’ve known and felt the effects of Nimbyism (“Not in my Backyard”) for our whole careers. Nimbyism usually involves projects like homeless shelters, housing developments, landfills, or roads due to the possible effects of changing the character of an area in some way. Predictably, commercial cannabis businesses are the newest additions to the ever-developing list of NIMBY targets. The legal commercial cannabis industry seems to be an easy choice due to the many decades of prohibition even as a majority of public support has shifted in more recent times to be in favor of the emerging sector. This is also true in Yolo County, where a majority of residents have indicated their support for legal cannabis access and business activities, while a small group of residents and the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation have remained anti-cannabis. They are using undeserved biases and creating fictitious statements to try and stop a positive local development.
Legal Cannabis actually makes for a safer neighborhood. It has been said that cannabis businesses are creating an increase in local crimes and violence. In fact, the exact opposite is happening. Legal cannabis operations are actually very secure especially with state regulations and proposed staff recommendations that are creating an abundance of security protocols for protecting product but also neighbors, customers, and company personnel. Currently, county staff are proposing additional security measures and standards to add into the comprehensive Cannabis Land Use Ordinance for even greater health and safety controls. Cannabis businesses have, themselves, already contributed to increasing a whole range of operational safeguards such as extensive video camera systems, alarms, motion detectors, security guards, shielded outdoor lighting, enhanced neighborhood patrols, and more. As a result, these businesses have been able to call local law enforcement and report suspicious characters, drug use, fires, theft on neighboring properties, and suspected illegal operations. Recently, a group in the Capay Valley has stated that these upstanding businesses have been contributing to crime, when in actuality, the records show that said group is the one receiving the most calls for service in the county space, thereby creating the most demand on the Sheriff’s Department as seen over the last several years. This detailed data on crime in the Capay Valley can be received upon public request
from the county.
Legal Cannabis provides safe access, eliminating many of the dangerous elements that accompany the illicit market. Remember that without a legal market, the options for individuals are largely limited to purchasing dangerous and untested products that often support drug cartels and all the horrors of an illicit drug trade. Here’s something that you may not know: Individuals who seek to own and operate licensed cannabis businesses in our county must first pass criminal background checks with the FBI both on a local and the state level in accordance with regulations. So when you hear a NIMBYer say that gangs, cartels, and Bernie Madoff -types are one and the same as those legally qualified business entrepreneurs, know that it is far from the truth. In fact, many long-term residents are trying to be a part of a new and exciting industry by developing better models and practices for the future rather than just ignoring cannabis like it doesn’t exist or worse, treating it like some kind of plague. Some have been upset by the county not granting more licenses but this is not due to some kind of failing on their part or on the part of the industry. Rather, the Board of Supervisors made the decision to take a slower, more methodical approach involving smaller steps to better vet applicants, analyze data over time, and help balance different opinions on the subject.
Legal Cannabis supports the Yolo County community. When cannabis is purchased from our legally licensed businesses, local jobs are being supported and tax revenue is being generated, which in turn, gets reinvested in our community. By producing cannabis locally, we create a larger, more beneficial impact for all. Contributions also extend to local nonprofit organizations, fire departments, and charitable entities on top of those taxes that benefit local projects. The cannabis industry, in general, has always been empathetic, rooted in medical collectives, offering compassionate use and access for those in need.
Saying that cannabis is creating crime, is not an agricultural product, wastes water, and makes money off the backs of residents echoes the same sort of complaints that were once targeted at a certain Casino, Golf Course, and Hotel Resort. Many articles were written over the years about the same topics but instead of taking a more restrictive route, hammering for a total ban, residents learned to co-exist and work together with the developers and operators. We can take a step further, though, and consider some additional comparisons. Cannabis crops use less water than orchards, including those that exist in the same valley and especially less than a 150-acre golf course that produces no agricultural goods, just green grass. Cannabis cultivation operations do not put in large leach fields that could possibly contaminate neighboring crops. We do not have or create traffic issues since most farms are small one-acre operations. We pay extremely high licensing costs so as to not burden taxpayers. We pay high gross receipt taxes to benefit the community. We support local agricultural suppliers and ancillary businesses. We pay to have access to legally compliant banking and are charged much higher rates than most types of business for insurance, workers compensation, and the like. We do not make our money or develop our businesses from profit-based entertainment offerings. We do not have to post warnings about the many problems that have been tied to gambling, which can often result in severe personal, professional, and/or legal consequences (as found on the Cache Creek website).
Let’s be real — Cannabis will always be and have a market, so it is our duty to be reasonable and responsible, engaging in positives like offering better youth education instead of offering animosity and blame. The path to success follows sensible policy making not NIMBYism, discrimination, and unfair practices. Legalization is still sweeping through the country and an ever-increasing majority of Americans have voiced their approval. Unlike in some counties and cities in California, the Yolo County Cannabis Task Force has done an exemplary job creating some of the strictest rules and inspection criteria to ensure that businesses and residents alike are safe and secure. Unlike illegal dealers that continue to create problems for our community and its youth, licensed cannabis companies have a record of giving back and contributing in financially substantial ways, such as through frequent donations and taxes.
In closing, those community members who support cannabis need to be aware of how the opposing minority including the YDWN continue to maliciously attack the will of the voters, using the same tactics that were employed against themselves for over 20 years. This is not and will never be acceptable.
Richard Miller is the State Director of the American Alliance for Cannabis and Yolo County Farmers For Safe and Responsible Cannabis Regulations
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