Lassen County Sheriff Dean Growdon, left, explains his opposition to Measure M during a Town Hall meeting held Thursday, Oct. 18 at Richmond School. Photo by Sam Williams

Residents discuss pros, cons of Measure M

Measure M, a controversial local measure on the Nov. 6 ballot regarding the possible commercial cultivation of marijuana in Lassen County, has split the board of supervisors and the community two weeks before the election.

Measure M would establish a taxing structure for both commercial medical and commercial recreational cannabis should the board of supervisors ever authorize such activities. While medical and recreational cannabis are legal under California law, each county and city has the authority to regulate such activity.

According to Lassen County Counsel’s impartial analysis included with the sample ballot, a yes vote will impose the tax and a no vote will not. The measure requires a simple majority vote to be adopted. Growers would be taxed based on the square footage of their canopy space and a second tax would be imposed upon their gross receipts.

Dean Growdon, Lassen County Sheriff, opened the meeting that attracted about 25 residents explaining his opposition to Measure M. (See Growdon’s Where I Stand on page 11B in today’s newspaper.)

Growdon said the legal medical cannabis grows in the county are not a problem, the illegal grows present a public safety risk. He also said Measure M is misleading, in that some voters believe they are simply adopting a “sin tax” on cannabis and some may consider Measure M’s passage as an endorsement of commercial grows.

Chris Gallagher, Lassen County’s District 1 supervisor, said Measure M simply establishes a tax structure, and that will not change anything. He also pointed out, he’s always been against recreational marijuana, and in 2019 any growers would have to get a permit from the county before they could begin their operations.

He said the committee that created the ordinance envisioned a small cottage industry of perhaps six grows for medical marijuana only, not commercial.

Speaking against Measure M, Nancy Cardenas, Lassen County’s Treasurer/Tax Collector, said because cannabis is illegal under federal law, she fears anyone who handles the money could be charged with money laundering.

Kerri Cobb, a candidate for the Lassen County District 5 supervisor’s seat, said as a former bank manager she shared similar concerns.

Patty Gunderson, Lassen County’s superintendent of schools, said if Measure M passes she will ask that all the school’s money be placed in a separate account because she fears that money may be seized by the federal government if commingled with drug money.

Local activist Pat Holley said Measure M “puts the cart before the horse,” and the county should wait until the state has worked all the bugs out before moving forward.

Aaron Albaugh, Lassen County District 4 supervisor, agreed the county should let the state figure out what to do with commercial cannabis grows first.

“They’re not there yet,” he said.

He also said he’s not willing to gamble the future of Lassen County on the tax money it might receive.

Resident Curtis Bortles said some banks in the state will accept funds from cultivation.

He said a single dispensary in the county could generate about $40,000 in revenue, not to mention the sales tax that would be collected.

Resident Theresa Nagel said this was the first time she’s heard the board envisioned a small number of cottage industries and wondered how much the county would receive in taxes.

Gallagher responded he didn’t know, and the county is setting up a structure for collecting taxes, so that “When this happens, we’ll be ready to go.”