Redone Pot Initiative Headed To Court

July 18, 2008

California — A ballot proposal aimed at reinstating Mendocino County’s liberal pot-growing guidelines, repealed by voters last month, is headed to court. County officials have asked the Superior Court to uphold their refusal to process the petitions, an action that has blocked signature-gathering efforts.

County Counsel Jeanine Nadel has declined to write the necessary ballot title and summary for the measure, asserting that the proposal would be unconstitutional.

“If I were to do the ballot title and summary, I feel it would be misleading the voters,” Nadel said. “I feel it’s best to take this action now rather than later,” Nadel said.A judge this week granted the county a temporary reprieve from writing a title and summary for the proposed initiative pending the outcome of a July 25 hearing on the issues of the case.

The delay could keep the proposed initiative off the November ballot no matter how the judge rules, said Katrina Bartolomie, Mendocino County assistant registrar of voters.

If a judge were to rule in favor of initiative proponents at the hearing, they would have just two weeks to collect 3,083 signatures from registered voters and get those signatures verified by the elections office. The deadline is Aug. 8.

“I think they would have been extremely lucky to make the ballot even without the court delay,” Bartolomie said.

Proponents of the proposed ballot measure blasted the legal challenge.

“I believe this is part of what is a well-funded federal war against medical marijuana in California using Mendocino County as a flashpoint,” said J. David Nick, who represents the initiative’s backers.

The proposal is a replica of Measure G, which voters repealed in June by approving Measure B.

Like Measure G, the new version demands that county supervisors use their budgetary authority to stop law enforcement officers from enforcing marijuana laws.

“The Board of Supervisors can’t dictate what the sheriff and district attorney do,” said Nadel, who was not the county counsel when Measure G was placed on the ballot.

She declined to discuss her predecessor’s decision not to challenge Measure G.

The proposal also would direct authorities to ignore gardens in which 25 or fewer pot plants were being grown.

Because it does not specify that the pot be grown for medicinal use, the proposed measure also is in conflict with state laws, Nadel said.

Measure B requires the county to adhere to state guidelines — six plants per person for medicinal purposes only.

The proposed measure’s backers admit the Measure G clone has problems and that it may be unconstitutional. But they say people should still be allowed to vote on it.

Many voters may not have understood Measure B when they cast their ballots, said E.D. Lerman, a Mendocino attorney and proponent of the measure.

“I want to make sure voters of this county have the opportunity to decide whether they want Measure B to be the law,” she said.

If the proposed initiative is banned from the ballot, its backers may simply rewrite it without language deemed unconstitutional and submit it for a later election, Lerman said.

If that happens, Measure B proponent Ross Liberty said he’s prepared to renew his battle against what many believe was pot growing run amok.

Its passage by nearly 60 percent of the vote was fueled by a backlash against for-profit marijuana production in the county, which law enforcement say increased following Measure G’s passage.

It’s been blamed for a spike in violent crime, such as a string of pot-related home invasion robberies reported on the coast last week.

“It had the effect of lawlessness,” Liberty said.

Note: Mendocino County counsel says it’s unconstitutional; delay may keep it off ballot.


Source: Press Democrat, The (Santa Rosa, CA)


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