The anti-marijuana approach to policy in Ventura County seems, for the most part, never-ending. First, in 1996, California voters approve the Compassionate Use Act, which allowed qualified patients to legally access medical marijuana. Despite this move toward legal access, local lawmakers banned the sale of, delivery of and, essentially, any access to the drug, with only a very few exceptions via membership at nonprofit collectives in select areas, such as Ojai. Over 20 years later, those exceptions have mostly been shut down or have come under investigation for various reasons, though most of the charges, at least with Shangri La Care Cooperative out of Ojai, have been dropped.
2016 was a banner year for marijuana advocates. In March, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected by a 6-2 vote a conservative challenge brought by Nebraska and Oklahoma to the marijuana legalization laws adopted in Colorado and elsewhere, permitting adults to buy, sell or use an ounce of the drug. The argument was over marijuana illegally coming from Colorado into their states. Then on Nov. 8, California voters passed the Marijuana Legalization Act, joining seven other states that also expanded marijuana use to recreational purposes. Currently, 29 states and the District of Columbia have laws that permit medical marijuana use. This year, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau brought forward legislation on April 13 to legalize recreational use across the country by July 1, 2018. Meanwhile, in the U.S., Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowed a federal crackdown on marijuana, though last month Congress dedicated $0 to his effort.
In Ventura County, however, just as jobs and housing growth move at a snail’s pace, so does pot legalization in any form. In March, in a 3-2 vote, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors rejected staff recommendations that would have allowed a limited number of dispensaries, pot farms and processing facilities in unincorporated areas. It really comes as no surprise that conservative-leaning Supervisors Kelly Long, District 3; Peter Foy, District 4; and Linda Parks, District 2, voted against it because, despite a free market capitalist society, legalizing pot business is one of the few political sacred cows many GOP leaders cannot seem to bend on. This isn’t abnormal in the county, as City Council members in Camarillo, Oxnard, Simi Valley and Ventura, among others, avoid the topic, extend moratoriums on sales and cultivation or keep pushing out discussions on it indefinitely. Despite the status quo of no-go on pot, Fillmore, Port Hueneme and the usually more conservative city of Thousand Oaks are not shying away from the conversation, with Hueneme as the front runner in moving medical marijuana access into reality. Next year, when Prop 64 that legalized recreational marijuana goes into full effect, Port Hueneme will be ready to discuss that, too, and capitalize further with sales tax revenue. (Read 420 Update in News for the latest.)
The question, though, about the elephant in the room: Why the reefer madness in the blue county of Ventura in progressive California?
Living with pain, or taking pharmaceuticals and living with their side effects, are not the best ways to live a good life. While so much of Ventura County rejecting all aspects of medical marijuana, much less the legalized recreational use of marijuana, what is it about this place that keeps our leaders from doing much of anything? Also, with all the dire news over unfunded pensions across the county, plus any costs associated with enforcing federal pot laws, why not move toward a new stream of tax revenue versus simply increasing taxes?
While we understand that certain local public safety officials are against all things of this nature, more than half of the U.S. legalized the use of medical marijuana and eight states legalized recreational pot. Isn’t it time to do something about it here, for the sake of people who need it . . . and simply want to access it legally in their own cities and county? Maybe it’s time for the majority of Ventura County leaders and lawmakers to learn and take some cues from the Friendly City by the Sea of Port Hueneme.