NEVADA CITY, Calif. February 7, 2016 – The Nevada County Board of Supervisors will clarify their intent on the proposed ballot measure prohibiting outdoor marijuana growing this Tuesday.  Why is a “clarification” needed? Because the ballot measure,  in its current form, is meaningless. Vote Yes and further restrictions and changes are implemented, vote No and the current ordinance remains in place.

The BOS – collectively and individually – from the dais, while meeting with constituents and in comments to the media has stated: “You’ll get to vote on this.”

But, herein lies the problem. Even by the most elastic definition of “this,” you – the voters – don’t get to vote on “this.”

Local ballot measures must have clear Yes or No options.  Otherwise, what’s next? A ballot measure offering Nevada County a choice between installing cameras on every property or  pay a privacy tax?

Granted, the BOS will consider replacing the current ballot question with a longer run-on sentence. Right now, the question reads: “Shall an ordinance amending Sections G-IV 5.4(C) and G-IV 5.4(E) of the Nevada County General Code regarding Restrictions on Marijuana Cultivation within the unincorporated areas of Nevada County be adopted?

The new question reads: “Shall an ordinance be adopted which (a) bans outdoor cultivation, commercial cultivation and other commercial cannabis activities, (b) limits indoor cultivation to 12 plants per parcel in residential and rural areas, (c) prohibits indoor marijuana cultivation in unpermitted structures and areas used or intended for human occupancy, and (d) allows marijuana cultivation only by qualified patients and primary caregivers and only for medicinal purposes?

The BOS voted on January 12th to replace sections of the 2012 “urgency ordinance” with a prohibition on all outdoor cultivation and a ban on all commercial cannabis activities.

That’s what supervisors voted on and that’s what voters should vote on if the ballot process is to be meaningful.

As it stands, voters are asked to approve an action by the BOS that 4 out of 5 supervisors don’t want to take sole responsibility for. “You’ll get to vote on this.”

It’s embarrassing enough that supervisors need to clarify their intent. Did they not read and analyze the measure before them, were they rushed into a vote? Voting on the ballot measure happened after hours of testimony from the public on the proposed changes to the urgency ordinance. Yes, it was late in the afternoon and no doubt fatigue had set in. Maybe that’s why public comment on the ballot measure was never taken and the item was dispensed with in record time.

Worse, the upcoming justification/correction attempt is equally clear as mud.

Voters, instead of affirming or opposing the actions taken by the BOS, are asked to approve or reject cosmetic alterations, not the substance of the updated ordinance.

No word on the unintended consequences of the ballot measure either. Since all commercial activity will be prohibited, would that include a biotech company deciding to apply for a use permit to manufacture testing equipment for medical marijuana? Will garden supply stores ask you for a release of liability when you buy fertilizer?

Supervisors will clarify their intent in a separate resolution, along with questions on who will write and sign the argument in favor of the ballot measure and why an economic analysis of the ballot measure is not needed. If adopted, only the resolution will spell out  what the BOS intends to do if the ballot measure passes or fails. Are voters in June supposed to dig up the resolution to see what they’re voting on? Since when is that a prerequisite to make an informed decision at the ballot box? Why isn’t the clarifying language included in the ballot measure?

It really doesn’t matter what this ballot measure is about, subverting the voting process is the real issue here.