"Don't bogart that joint, my friend, pass it over to meeeeeeeee ... ."
Ooops ... sorry. I was just channeling my 18-year-old self. Where was I? Oh, yeah. I have noticed that a debate over the growing of cannabis in SLO County has been raging for a while. As a child of the '60s, I had long ago conducted my own "investigation" of the topic, but as I aged, my "scientific curiosity" waned, and I do not have any strong opinions one way or the other. But I have read various commentaries on the matter from other contributors to this publication, and figured I ought to jump in.
It seems that the controversy revolves around the siting of pot cultivation, and as I understand it, most of the objections seem to focus on the smell of the growing plants. Some people have even compared the smell to that of a pig farm. Eeeeek! Even as a fancier of ham, bacon, and the other porcine arts, I have to admit to some reticence to spending my days downwind from that.
In the May 7 edition of this paper, the Shredder ("That magic potion") dismissed the odor concerns as an unreasonable effort to court the "highfalutin" wine crowd, and mocked those who objected. Let me propose an experiment. Let's lock the Shredder in a small sealed room for a few days with my buddy Fat Larry, who will be provided with his favorite diet of beans, cheese, beer, sauerkraut, and pork rinds. I can predict with a high degree of confidence that the Shredder will emerge with a highly developed sense of empathy for those who struggle with olfactory assault. And, for God's sake, don't light a match!
Now, I have not driven by a marijuana grow and drawn in a snoot-full of the aroma, and am open to the idea that some of the odor complaints may be a little exaggerated. Much like the complaints supporting the banning of tobacco smoking in outdoor areas like parks. When I hear someone claiming to be endangered by a cigarette being smoked a quarter of a mile away, I tend to look for an agenda. Such bans usually seem to be driven by those who just object to the very idea of smoking, and who, given their druthers, would prefer to ban smoking altogether.
The conservative standard of when government should regulate is the old "your rights end where they interfere with my rights" standard. Assuming that marijuana grows do in fact produce a distinct odor, that would certainly constitute a reasonable grounds for a neighbor to object. Nobody should be forced to endure having an offensive odor in their home or business 24/7.
We have a lot of open land in SLO County, and it should be possible to find grow areas without any nearby homes or businesses to be impacted. After all, even the aroma of the stockyards on Highway 5 dissipates after a mile or two. And, of course, the determination of whether or not the smell was detectable should be made by the "reasonable person" standard.
Perhaps I am being naïve or obtuse, but it seems like the dispute can be easily resolved by just setting reasonable spacing standards. However, it is possible that I am just missing some subtext or underlying agendas. For example, one commentator attributed the resistance to the marijuana grows to "white supremacy" and declared that suppressing pot was a tactic of the diabolical minions of the Nixon presidency and used in oppressing blacks, Mexicans, and hippies. Wow! I had no idea that my sessions with a bong listening to endless repetitions of "Stairway to Heaven" on my 8-track, were actually acts of fearless resistance to "The Man," and effectively made me a "freedom fighter." Or, that Cheech and Chong must have been the moral equals of Nelson Mandela. I had always just assumed that much of my youth had been misspent, but now I find that I had been virtuous and, indeed, heroic!
Perhaps this is just another battlefield in the "culture wars" with some people seeing legalized marijuana as contributing to our long moral decline and slide into the abyss of excessive indulgence, social decay, and self-absorption. Be that as it may, pot can hardly be any more noxious or destructive than the Kardashians or some of the other unfortunate but sanctioned fixtures of our popular culture.
For better or worse, legalized marijuana is a reality, and whatever the wisdom of it, it's something we have to live with. We conservatives consider ourselves pragmatists and willing to confront the reality which we face. We also revere property rights, and as a general rule, we figure that a property owner ought to be able to do pretty much anything they want with their land, unless it hurts others. But, we also recognize that one's property rights end where another's begin. Marijuana cultivation should be allowed wherever it will not interfere with another's reasonable use of their own land. Δ
John Donegan is a retired attorney who lives in Pismo Beach, and who is currently trying to fix his groovy 50-year-old lava lamp and listening to the Grateful Dead. Send a letter in response to firstname.lastname@example.org.