With no shortage of pressure on both sides of the debate, Hollister City Council members and San Benito County supervisors have kicked the proverbial can down the road on cannabis regulations for way too long.
This, after all, is why politicians are supposed to seek office. It’s why voters elect them: You know, to make decisions, whether those decisions are difficult or easy.
But most of our elected board members representing Hollister and San Benito County have failed to live up to those simple expectations on cannabis, while the topic shouldn’t actually be such an overly perplexing issue strictly from a political point of view. With medical marijuana legalized in California for more than two decades, it’s not like there’s much of a shock factor to get past on the issue. With San Benito County voters comfortably in favor of recreational marijuana use, there really shouldn’t be much to debate when taking a broad view of the topic.
Yet, here we are, with the clock ticking toward the state’s January time frame for allowing licenses, the council and board of supervisors continue to collectively pull delay tactics as a way to avoid doing their jobs.
After months of going back and forth and failing to show any level of boldness on the topic, the council’s Vice Mayor Karson Klauer recused himself from the cannabis discussions because a family member owns property next to one of the proposed dispensary sites. Councilman Jim Gillio recused himself as well because of a perceived conflict of interest. According to the story written by Nicholas Preciado for the Free Lance, some medical cannabis applicants had purchased equipment from his business, Central Ag Supply. Meanwhile, Councilwoman Mickie Luna was out sick, leaving only two members on the dais: Mayor Ignacio Velazquez and Councilman Ray Friend.
Coincidence that just about everybody is finding an excuse? It’s highly unlikely.
The same sort of delay tactics are happening at the county level, too. The county board keeps finding new ways to put off any kind of finality when it comes to refining local regulations on recreational cannabis. In the latest county move in May, the overly hesitant supervisors gave applicants another six months to prepare for a public hearing, all the while as outdated local laws remain in place that are a kick in the shin to any and all cannabis supporters. You know, that 55 percent of the local electorate that said “yes” to recreational marijuana on the November ballot and joined the state as a whole with a similar percentage of support.
With marijuana, it looks like conservative interests in San Benito County continue to pull more weight than the general public. That’s a sad reality in 2017 in a county where there are fewer and fewer of the old guard to push politicians around, in an era of supposed transparency with the explosion of social media options on the internet.
The truth is there is no turning back on recreational cannabis. It’s undoubtedly a disappointing outcome for many in this county who are against marijuana. But it’s a fact that will not change, whether certain influential people in this county continue stomping their feet or they come to grips and accept reality.
Council members and county supervisors should end this game and approve regulations that fit in line with the electorate’s wishes. They should stop treating the cannabis industry and marijuana users as pariahs. They should smell the roses and realize that cannabis is far less dangerous than the alcohol and prescription medication that many upstanding community members undoubtedly use.
It’s time for the so-called leaders to end the delay tactics on local cannabis regulations and do what these politicians were elected to do: Represent.