The most confusing decision Half Moon Bay voters are likely to face prior to Nov. 6 concerns the future of cannabis in their town. Most voters will probably pick a side and choose to either support or reject the measures based on their perception of marijuana generally. We think these issues are more subtle than that and suggest that you take them individually, as we do here.

Measure GG: Voter approval here would mandate an ordinance to allow and regulate cultivation of small cannabis plants in certain existing commercial greenhouses.

Yes on GG:There could be no more limited approval of cannabis in Half Moon Bay than this. The “starts,” as they are known, contain exceedingly little or no THC, the psychoactive ingredient that makes users high. Once sprouted, the plants would be shipped elsewhere for maturation, manufacture and sales. Such cultivation is in keeping with the area’s rich agricultural tradition. The plants would produce no odor. The operations would be required to maintain round-the-clock security. Cannabis cultivation farms would be virtually unrecognizable as such to anyone on the coast.

Measure EE: If passed, this advisory measure would suggest the City Council allow commercial greenhouse cultivation of mature cannabis plants.

No on EE: Here we think it behooves the city to go slow. Mature plants are fundamentally different from the starts. They would be a target for theft. Though there is state law governing light pollution and odor, these would be more intensive operations. We don’t necessarily think such cultivation is a bad idea, but we favor reassessing this idea in several years, when the entire community is more — or less — comfortable with cultivation.

Measure SS: This advisory measure suggests the city pass a law allowing up to two retail cannabis sales locations in the city.

No on SS: This is the most difficult measure to decide. After all, more than two-thirds of city voters approved Proposition 64, which effectively legalized recreational use across the state. We assume those nearly three-fourths of voters intended for the product to be available somewhere. And if not here, then where exactly? Were local voters saying that pot sales were OK for San Mateo but not here? That said, we don’t think a majority of local residents want dispensaries on the coast. There are unresolved issues for law enforcement, including driving while intoxicated, that need work beyond our city limits. This is another measure that might best be considered when there is more data available on how retail sales work in California.

Measure MM: This measure would suggest the council allow and regulate commercial manufacture of cannabis products. These are oils and foods that go beyond buds many typically think of when they think of pot.

No on MM: This measure would go beyond what many voters have in mind when they think of marijuana. Some of the products are deceptively appealing to young people, and that is a philosophical problem here. Such products are not in keeping with our agricultural roots. This just isn’t right for the area.

Measure AA: This would establish an ordinance with specific taxation rates for various cannabis business operations. It suggests the city would raise at least $64,000 a year just from deliveries.

No on AA: The city should tax all new cannabis businesses that might one day establish in Half Moon Bay, but these rates are not fully informed. For example, it calls for $2 to $10 per square foot for cultivation and 6 percent on retail. That is in addition to existing sales tax. In the event cultivation or anything else is allowed here, let’s look at those rates again and compare them to places like Monterey County, where they are significantly lower.

Finally, we want to address some misperceptions. Allowing limited cultivation of marijuana would not change the character of the town. Towns like ours in Colorado, Oregon and Washington were and remain wonderful places to live and visit after pot became legal. There is no evidence that cultivation would increase crime in the area. It is a false equivalence to compare what is envisioned here with illegal grows in Humboldt County or elsewhere. Allowing cultivation would not “normalize” pot use here because it is already normal. Local teens are not going to start smoking pot because it’s being grown in a couple of local greenhouses.

There are concerns, of course. Any cultivation could conceivably drive up the cost of housing. Success would likely bring pressure to expand the local industry, at which time city residents can decide whether that makes sense. And we understand why the Latino community would be concerned about any change that could rile federal enforcement officials.

The cannabis question is too complicated to be either “for” or “against.” We strongly suggest voters look at both to learn what cannabis supporters are saying, and at to read what those opposed have written. We think thoughtful voters will pick a middle path.

— The Editorial Board 


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