Justice and the law should be total bros, always hanging together and protecting and treating people right, but sometimes they act like they don't even know each other! Take, for example, the plight of Megan Souza and Eric Powers, co-owners of Megan's Organic Market, a medical marijuana cultivation and mobile delivery service, who are about to get hosed by SLO County, which is threatening to destroy medicine that serves more than 1,000 legal patients.
Is it because neighbors have complained about their half-acre grow on the 35-acre rural Los Osos parcel they lease? I mean, after all, the SLO County Counsel's Office claims in its lawsuit that "cannabis cultivation affects the entire community by diverting limited water resources, increasing the potential for criminal activity, using excessive energy, and producing strong offensive odors."
Maybe someone complained about the smell, crime, energy, or water use? Well, nope! Instead, the county is threatening Souza and Powers by saying their grow is "non-compliant" because—get this—a structure on the property they lease from owner Susan Veley was allegedly built without permits. The structure was already there when Souza and Powers began leasing the property in early 2016.
Tough beans, said SLO County Code Enforcement Supervisor Art Trinidade, who doesn't seem to care that Souza and Powers had nothing to do with the 2012 code violation. Because the property has an outstanding code violation, their otherwise legal grow operation that's protected under Proposition 215 is subject to "abatement," meaning destruction.
What they hell are they supposed to do, Art? Should they knock down buildings they don't own? According to Powers, he's been trying to work it out with the county and even met with planning staff, who ultimately said Powers' grow permit denial would stand. Where's the justice in this? Why destroy the livelihood of two small business owners because they leased a piece of property with out-of-code buildings, unbeknownst to them? Shouldn't you be going after the legal owner of the property?
Of course the county should, but instead it's using the letter of the law to perpetuate an injustice, because marijuana bad! Bad, marijuana! At some point the county and various local municipalities are going to need to face the fact that marijuana is legal and a whole hell of a lot safer than alcohol, tobacco, and double cheeseburgers.
It's like the county's discriminating against pot growers or something! Are you going to find some reason to sue each of the more than 400 growers who registered with the county? Sounds expensive.
On another note, "discrimination" has gotten a bad rap, mainly because when most people think of the word, they think of its secondary definition, to "make an unjust or prejudicial distinction," forgetting its primary definition, to "recognize a distinction or to differentiate." Like "he's got discriminating taste when it comes to fine wines."
This faulty interpretation of "discrimination" is the problem behind Measure B-17, which will be hitting SLO city voters' mailboxes on July 24. Voting "yes" on the mail-in-only special election will purportedly cancel the controversial Rental Housing Inspection Program, which was designed to assure renters were living in legal and up-to-code dwellings, but which opponents argued was an invasion of privacy and would lead to even more expensive rents. The thing is the SLO City Council already voted 5-0 to rescind the inspection program, and if B-17 passes, it will forbid any kind of "discrimination" in city housing policies, including discriminating in favor of low-income renters, the elderly, or the disabled—the very people most in need of affordable housing help.
A "no" vote will allow the city to continue to implement programs that help people in need.
In case you've forgotten, this little peccadillo—aka the $150,000 special election and stupid potential new ordinance—is brought to you by former SLO Vice Mayor Dan Carpenter and local attorneys Stew Jenkins and Dan Knight, who gathered signatures on a petition to end the Rental Housing Inspection Program and replace it with the Non-Discrimination in Housing Ordinance (Measure B-17), which asserts that "age, income, disability, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual identity, or inability or ability to own a home" cannot be used to discriminate.
When it comes time to mail in your ballot, don't be fooled by the language.
Organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, People's Self-Help Housing, and the Housing Authority of SLO County may be denied funding, making it impossible for them to complete their affordable housing mission. If passed, B-17 may also rescind laws that protect low-income residents of mobile home parks. It will also make it legal to point and laugh at the homeless (OK, I made that last part up, but it's cut from the same cloth).
Carpenter, Jenkins, and Knight may have thought they were doing the right thing when they circulated their petition, but it's resulted in a dumb, poorly written ordinance that will hurt the already vulnerable low-income population of SLO Town.
If you're an insufferable and thoughtless prick who doesn't care about the poor, vote "yes" on Measure B-17. Δ
The Shredder has discriminating taste when it comes to cannabis. Send ideas and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.