If you’ve browsed Facebook in Lassen County in recent weeks, you may have noticed the debate brewing over commercial cannabis. If not there, maybe you heard about it out in the community. Either way, you’re probably sick of it, as am I.
The reason marijuana has become such a hot topic lately is because Lassen County and Susanville voters are finally getting the chance to definitively answer the question of commercial cannabis via Measures R and S on the November ballot. Desperate to sway the outcome of the election, a small group of “concerned citizens” including fundamentalists, conspiracy theorists and dedicated activists have taken to social media and elsewhere to push an onslaught of misleading articles, inflammatory social media posts and opinion pieces.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that every person against these measures is being dishonest or mean-spirited. Plenty of good and decent people are opposed to commercial cannabis, and they have their reasons. Unfortunately, their contributions to the discussion are being drowned out by an obnoxious few. This didn’t happen spontaneously; it’s actually several years in the making. In 2018, when voters passed Measure M and Supervisor Tom Hammond handily won re-election, a small but very vocal group of people made the false claim that the election was stolen as “drug addicts” had been “bussed in” to vote. Many of the same people who pushed that lie are now leading the charge against commercial cannabis.
It didn’t stop there. Whether you consider yourself a fan of Susanville’s Mayor Pro Tem Thomas Herrera or not, you can’t deny that he was the target of extremely negative campaigning during his bid for re-election this year. The same group of people pushed rumors about Thomas’ business, his family, and his personal life. Whisper campaigns sought to portray him as a “drug-peddler.” Ridiculous, unsubstantiated claims alleged that Thomas and the city council were orchestrating closed-door cannabis deals. Disparaging comments were made to him in public, including in the presence of his wife and infant daughter. An appointed county official spoke at multiple city council meetings to launch personal attacks against Thomas and other members of the council. She also made a racially-charged remark at a city council meeting in late February, which was recorded. She didn’t apologize for that, either.
Ultimately, their efforts didn’t work and their over-the-top behavior likely played a role in Thomas’ victory. Yet even today, they make hollow threats of a recall election. It should worry any reasonable person that these people lost the election but refuse to accept the results. Despite their hostility, Mr. Herrera publicly made several offers to meet his detractors for coffee and a polite conversation. Almost every single one of them declined. That should tell you everything you need to know about the crowd now asking you to vote no on these measures.
As the November election nears, I urge you to do two things: First, research this topic independently of the propaganda. Do your own research and form your own opinion. If you have concerns about the impact of commercial cannabis, defer to the expertise of law enforcement, water and zoning experts, health experts and scientists.
Susanville city staff and several department heads, including the chief of police and fire chief, took part in an excellent study on the potential impact of commercial cannabis to the city of Susanville. That report is available on the city website, and I strongly encourage you to read it. It is remarkably thorough and well-researched in its evaluation. In reading it, you’ll quickly find that the men and women of Susanville’s public safety, public works and code enforcement do not share the same concerns as the reefer madness crowd.
The second thing I urge you to do is to consider your vote in November an expression of your voice. You have the opportunity to not only indicate your position on commercial cannabis, but also to send a message. Many of the people encouraging you to vote no on these measures are the same people who have, for years, discouraged economic development, leveraged their positions of power for dominion rather than progress, bullied and intimidated those who disagreed with them, and sidelined the voices of new residents, young residents and women. In November, use your vote to remind them of this: it’s your county too.
I encourage you to vote YES on Measures R and S.
Christopher J. Cole, Jr