Our View: The direction we’ll grow

Pick your favorite pot cliché and insert it here.

It’s high time we did something about this. We’re really in the weeds with this one. This is some dank business.

Regardless of your personal feelings on the issue, it’s obvious our county has moved beyond a discussion of whether we should have legal pot. It’s here. You can buy it from the store, and, unfortunately, from unregulated and untaxed sources.

We’re now at the stage where we must decide what directions this industry should go in our county.

Our local governments are looking at two paths right now.

One, in Nevada City, could lead to indoor, commercial cultivation and more types of businesses.

The other is a permanent ban on industrial hemp production.

The first — added cannabis businesses for Nevada City — appears like a no brainer for the town. Its cannabis tax revenue almost doubled expectations, bringing in around $600,000. Only $310,000 was expected.

Perhaps the most visible of those existing businesses, Elevation 2477’, is an example of how to do things right. It’s a stable business that brings jobs here, serves its product according to state rules and appears to create little to no problems for the community.

The question is now whether to allow other types of cannabis businesses.

It makes sense to allow the expansion of related businesses. The town started small, first allowing a medicinal only dispensary before green lighting recreational. It’s taken baby steps, seen how the businesses operated over several months, and now it’s time for the next move.

No doubt Nevada City is eyeing Grass Valley’s cannabis tax measure, which passed in November. The next obvious step for Grass Valley is luring cannabis businesses to its borders, and siphoning some of the tax dollars Nevada City has reaped.

This, in turn, means more competition among businesses, which should translate into better prices for consumers.

Adding new cannabis businesses is just one path we’re walking. The other, decided in a Tuesday vote by the Board of Supervisors, is the second.

A permanent ban on local hemp production is a smart move, for several reasons.

We’re just dipping our toes into a legal cannabis industry. Our statewide votes in 2016 legalized that industry, and our supervisors have created rules for it locally. Tackling an entirely new industry at this time is premature, as we haven’t yet figured out the first one yet. Why potentially damage that work by adding hemp to the mix? After all, the state hasn’t completed making its own regulations for hemp.

Additionally, cross-pollination is a serious concern. If allowed, it would destroy entire crops and very likely bankrupt the emerging legal cannabis industry.

A bigger concern is the economic impact, or lack of it, that hemp likely brings. Its production would need to be on a massive scale to be worth it. That’s not viable in regulation heavy California, and the smell — it’s got the same scent as regular pot — would be increased because so much of the plant would be required to turn a profit.

Another reason to avoid hemp cultivation locally — “hot hemp,” or hemp that tests positive for THC. That acronym is what gets people high. There aren’t enough regulations for hemp cultivation, and some growers could sneak THC into their hemp crop.

We’ve been through a lot when it comes to cannabis. A divisive campaign over Proposition 64, which legalized it. That was followed by clashes between supervisors and advocates, and then an interminable series of community advisory group meetings to flesh out our local pot rules.

It took some three years to get us to this point. The small steps we’re taking now will prove to be the right moves years down the road.

If we do this right, we’ll leave the cliches behind us, and turn the local cannabis industry into the economic engine it has the potential to become.

And then we’ll watch it grow.

The weekly Our View editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at [email protected]

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