Heather Burke: So to the future, place your strong hopes there. Then get back to work.

I was not designed to be forced.  I will breathe after my own fashion.  Let us see who is the strongest.” 
-Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

June 6, 2016 – We are living though one of the most widespread acts of civil disobedience in modern history, as the cultivation of cannabis is sweeping through California and beyond in numbers we can barely comprehend and in spite of any regulation attempting to stop it.

In Nevada County, Measure W will do little-to-nothing to change this trend.  At best, Measure W is a temporary vindication of the moral majority in a conservative retirement County, a moralistic approach that cannot be effectively enforced considering the sheer number of humans involved in cannabis cultivation. Thus, if W passes, the question is not if the ban will someday fail, but when it will fail.

Here’s why:

First, young people overwhelmingly prefer regulation to prohibition.  At minimum, the youth will someday rise to take the seats of County Supervisors and, even better, the Sheriff.  Case in point: my 14-year-old son toured the Supervisors’ offices on a school field trip.  Upon meeting Supervisor Ed Scofield, he and his young colleagues quickly challenged the elderly Supervisor about the wisdom (or lack thereof) of Measure W.  I talked to several of the children afterwards, and they said Scofield’s answers appeared rote, and didn’t jive with their reality.  I cannot help but smile when I imagine these fresh-faced teens immediately spotting Scofield’s spin, and holding their own against a failed policy that is literally aging before our eyes.  This scenario has replayed itself in my mind as a symbolic moment, and one that we should take to heart if Measure W passes.

Moreover, the pro-regulation camps have undoubtedly benefited in spectacular ways that will catapult us into the next fight, whatever that may be.  The greatest of these benefits is in the recent announcement that Nevada County has more registered Democrats that Republicans! I’m sure the Sheriff had no idea that his pet project would motivate the most vibrant “Get Out the Vote” campaign ever seen in Nevada County, causing our historically red county to turn blue.  This fascinating development has far reaching implications which are likely causing some handwringing in the Republican establishment.  Not only will the new Democratic majority affect the two Supervisorial races also at issue this week, it more importantly and undoubtedly will have drastic impacts for generations to come. So for that epic change to our County’s political landscape, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to our very own Sheriff Royal.

Another unexpected side effect of Measure W is that it provided a pathway for numerous No on W folks to rise to local and even statewide prominence.  Jonathan Collier, for example, was relatively low key before Measure W, but he has excelled in diplomacy, forging bonds with unlikely allies that I never thought possible.  Indeed, he was chosen to debate pro-W hothead, Supervisor Dan Miller, at the Democratic forum. Diana Gamzon of the California Growers Association is another standout who whipped a disorganized bunch of No-on-W folks into a lean, mean, fundraising and public outreach machine. Mark Shaefer worked with the No on W Committee to raise a significant amount of funds for the PAC, a feat that few thought were possible considering the dearth of funds for 2014’s Measure S.  The most compelling of this new generation of advocates is Forrest Hurd, a caring father whose articulate story about Measure W’s clear harm to his son Silas’ life has reverberated far outside the County, and has become the symbol for Measure W’s slash and burn approach. The list of these rising stars goes on and on.

The Sheriff could have gone for the old fashioned “divide and conquer” method that some Bay Area cities are doing by giving out one or two permits, and then over-regulating those to death.  But instead he chose to unite us with a singular goal, and spawned a quick rise of articulate, well trained, and energetic cannabis superstars.  I could not have handpicked a better team of advocates to embark on the post-W journey with (whatever that may be) and, for that, I’m grateful to the Sheriff for a new cadre of pro-regulation heavyweights that he created.  It will not be long before others rise as well, as folks are less scared of law enforcement retaliation with each passing day, particularly as they can now take safety in the great numbers of others who are also freely speaking out.

Finally, it must be noted the pro-regulation community united against W in a way that we have never done before, precisely because we never had to.  Measure W thus provided the impetus for the rise of a tightly knit and supportive cannabis community, a community that did not exist in this way before January 12th.  Indeed, innumerable and life-lasting connections were made as our people rose to new levels togetherWin or lose, it truly has been a team effort.  With this newly united front, we’ve forever changed the face of cannabis in this community, and this beautiful face is here to stay.

At the risk of sounding cliché, please remain encouraged, regardless of what happens on Tuesday.  Measure W’s impact will be fleeting, as it cannot stop the tides of reasonable cannabis regulation sweeping the nation. If it passes, we trod on, united.  So to the future, place your strong hopes there.

Then get back to work.