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Supervisors to use committee approach to get public input on medical marijuana

Ad hoc committee approach means that two or more public meetings will be held to gather the public's perspective
Kristina Chavez Wyatt wants input for all sides on issue.
Kristina Chavez Wyatt asked that committee be public and involve all stakeholders in medical marijuana.

The San Benito County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the formation of an ad hoc committee, headed by supervisors Jerry Muenzer and Anthony Botelho, that will assist the board in reviewing and preparing a medical marijuana ordinance. At their last board meeting, the supervisors backtracked on an ordinance to ban cultivation of outdoor medical marijuana. One of the recommendations that came out of that meeting was to form a committee to review input from interested individuals.

The topic of the Oct. 20 board meeting was what form the committee would take. The two choices were ad hoc and a standing committee. An ad hoc committee would hold two or more public meetings to be held at a convenient time and place for the public to attend. A standing committee would require the Clerk of the Board to post a notice of vacancy that the public could respond to in order to be considered for the committee.

Attorney Aaron Johnson, who represents the Coastal Growers Association and was one of those who spoke against the ordinance at the last meeting, offered to be a part of any committee.

“At the last meeting we heard a date of March 1, 2016, to have a cultivation ordinance in place,” he said. “We expect some clean-up bills in Sacramento that might change that, but we can’t rely on that. My concern with going with the standing committee approach is the time it takes to get people together to formerly assemble this committee and get to the point where work is accomplished as a group. That might not give you enough time to adopt an ordinance by March 1.”

Johnson said whatever approach upon which the supervisors decided, he wanted to remind them that the organization is interested in participating in the process.

“If you go with the ad hoc approach we will definitely attend meetings and offer any input that we can from the legal medical cannabis community,” he said.

Kristina Chavez Wyatt, president of Farmhouse Communications, said that regardless of the approach of a subcommittee or ad hoc task force, she highly recommend there be several public meetings.

“We have had a lot more community members who would be more interested in the subject matter given the interest at every level,” she said. “I highly recommend we engage the healthcare industry, caregivers, hospices, doctors and clinic staff, and the education community.”

Chavez Wyatt said the high school community, specifically, has expressed interest in participating in the discussion. She also said the farming community is particularly interested on an economic basis.

“There’s interest in cultivating hemp,” she said. “I’ve talked to the Farm Bureau and those who might be interested in cultivating medical cannabis, as well as possible changes in the law later this year and with the elections next year.”

Hollister resident Ann Ross said there is no need for a committee to figure out how to handle the marijuana issue.

“It’s your call, as far as I’m concerned,” she challenged the supervisors. “Right now, the law is, ‘you don’t grow it unless you have a reason to.’ We don’t know who those people are and it’s not really the time to get together. We can do all that with our agriculture area when the time comes. To let it be out of your control right now is not right. I don’t think a committee pushing it off to establish an ordinance later on is the way to go.”

Supervisor Anthony Botelho spoke in favor of the ad hoc approach, saying it would be the most expedient way to get an ordinance in place. Supervisor Margie Barrios agreed with him.

“I recommend if we do go down that route that it is established that they would be public and making sure that all the stakeholders are invited would be a good idea,” she said. “My recommendation is that there are established meeting dates and they are advertised.”

Supervisor Robert Rivas said he also was in favor of the ad hoc approach and added, “I think this is an important subject that will go beyond a year, so if we start off with an ad hoc approach we can identify members for a standing committee if we think this topic is important, especially with the election next year.”

Supervisor Jerry Muenzer said he was fine with whatever form the committee takes.

“My concern, whichever way we go, is that we definitely have the community involved, which I don’t think we did when the ordinance came to us,” he said. “We need to establish who, from the community, can represent medical marijuana and be at the table.”

After voting unanimously for the ad hoc approach, with assurance that there would be two or more meetings would be public, Barrios appointed Botelho and Muenzer to head the committee.

“Not all of the meetings will be public, but when the do hold public meetings they will be advertised,” Barrios said.  “We can go one step further and make sure that all the supervisors are aware of when those meetings are being held.”

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About:
John Chadwell (John Chadwell)

John Chadwell is an investigative reporter for BenitoLink. He has many years experience as a freelance photojournalist, copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer who has worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and underwent graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John has worked as a script doctor and his own script, God's Club, was released as a motion picture in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime that are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: johnchadwell@benitolink.com.

Comments

Submitted by (Kelvin Malko) on

I want to encourage the Board to take this subject very seriously because this is not just the beginning of this issue but somewhere on the road to a much bigger issue. Legalizing Marijuana for recreational use is where this issue will ultimately end up. Being a farming community the production of the crop could be a huge economic boost for San Benito County. I don't think it is the available element for consumption that fills our jails and causes death and injury to our loved ones. But rather the parenting to teach our children to be respectfully responsible. Every element in our society can be abused one way or another to cause harm to ourselves and others. The choice is ours and if we are not equipping our kids to make good choices it doesn't matter what we restrict with our laws. Big issue I know.

Submitted by (K. Williams) on

Why will some of the meetings not be held in public? According to the Brown Act, any committee formed by the Board is subject to the same Brown Act rules that apply to the Board. Supervisor Barrios should be called upon by this publication to explain why she thinks there is a need for the ad hoc committee to exclude the public to meet in Closed Session.

Kim,

There could be some actual benefit to holding meetings off the record in a neutral environment where subcommittee members are educated and informed by medical marijuana advocates about the efficacy of medical marijuana products for chronically ill and palliative care patient treatment programs.

In most cases, it takes about 4 months to cultivate and cure medical marijuana which requires great care and knowledge to produce a healthy crop and finished product. Subsequently, that product may be further processed in order to manufacture edibles, balms or tinctures in order to treat a variety of diseases. I seriously doubt that county supervisors have an understanding of the medical marijuana industry and/or these additional processes. And in my personal experience, I do not have the time or expertise to devote to such a process. Patients who are very ill and/or their caregivers probably do not either. At present, these people must travel outside of San Benito County to purchase medical marijuana which is a Draconian and unfair burden on sick people who live here. 

There is a particular strain of medical marijuana that was hybridized to be high in CDB and low in THC (the psychoactive component of cannabis) which has proven to be effective in treating epilepsy, seizures and tremors, especially in children. The strain is named Charlotte's Web after a young girl afflicted with epilepsy who suffered violent seizures which are now controlled through a monitored medical treatment program in Colorado where her parents moved the family so she could benefit from the medicine; no other prescription medication worked for her.

People like myself would like the opportunity to converse with subcommittee members one-on-one to tell our story about how medical marijuana was an effective alternative medication to opiate-based pain killers after cancer surgery and/or radiation treatment. I did not have to endure chemotherapy, but I have read that medical marijuana is an effective treatment program that helps such patients.

Personally speaking, I did not want to address the board of supervisors on Sept. 22 and announce to the public that I am a stage 3 cancer survivor who benefited from medical marijuana after surgery but it was clear to me that supervisors Barrios and Botelho did not consult with the medical community or constituents who are sick or dying and so I spoke on behalf of sick people...limited to 3 minutes. 

I think we can agree that there is a negative stigma associated with medical marijuana in society and in our county in particular that will only be alleviated through reasoned education and responsible, fact-based information provided to subcommittee members. If said subcommittee members are open-minded and receptive to such information in a neutral, non-confrontational environment wherein community members are not limited to 3 minutes to convey their thoughts then I would support such a meeting provided all other applicable rules governing public meetings are followed.

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