“By the rude bridge that arched the flood
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson, from the Concord Hymn, 1837.
If you’ve been in a cave hibernating, or away on an island vacation since the beginning of the year, you may be forgiven if you missed the headlines coming out of Josephine County in Southern Oregon. The rest of the state, however, is still reeling. In fact, with the most recent action by the county’s board of county commissioners (BCC), much of the nation is in shock. With one story gaining worldwide attention in early April, it is safe to say the cannabis-concerned population of the English speaking world let out the collective cry of WTF?!
You remember when you were young and not getting your way? You may have been loud in your objection or complaint? Your teacher or parent would say “It’s not that big a deal, you don’t have to make a federal case out of it.” Well, that is exactly what the BCC did.
The Oregonian headline said, “State of Oregon sued to restrict commercial marijuana regulations”. “Marijuana dispute pits county against state of Oregon” read the Associated Press article in the Washington Post. As the AP headline was repeated around the globe, the local paper, the Grants Pass Daily courier, featured an opinion, “Federal lawsuit is nothing more than county temper tantrum”. In fact, the first headline misses the point entirely, the second one is closer, but the third hits the bullseye.
The county is asking for federal declaratory relief against the state cannabis laws. Basically asking to be ruled by federal law prohibiting the cultivation of all cannabis instead. OMMP, OLCC, and ‘Freedom Plants’ under M91 are not all that is at stake. A world class federalist battle is about to be embarked on by a county that in March, before the Land Use Board Of Appeals (LUBA,) claimed the they do not have the funds to provide required legal notice to their own residents.
As if the headlines weren’t enough, the content of recent reporting on the topic will leave you wondering what country, and era, you are living in.”The good people are leaving and the marijuana people are staying” said Commissioner Dan DeYoung. Replace the word ‘marijuana’ in that sentence with any other word and see how that sounds.
“Any person in any state who possesses, distributes, or manufactures marijuana for medical or recreational purposes, or attempts or conspires to do so, is committing a federal crime,” Wally Hicks, a lawyer for the county wrote in the lawsuit. The suit names state Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum as a defendant, along with the entire state of Oregon. That’s the county’s elected attorney attempting to enforce federal law. Apparently he didn’t learn anything from Joe Arpaio down in Arizona.
In a bizarre rant at a recent county meeting, Commissioner DeYoung went on to say:
“There is a realtor in town that would really like to get a referendum on the ballot. Yeah. I am going to encourage him to do that. Let’s fire a fourth tube, let’s fire the fourth shell. Let’s put as many of them on there as possible… That’s just another thing they’ve got to work against. This thing is going to come at them from all angles. Not just the County Commissioners or Legal, it’s going to come at them from the citizens, it’s going to come at them… So that’s it, alright?”
No, commissioner, that’s not it. And that’s not “alright”. Declaring war on the people you are supposed to represent is not okay in America in the 21st century. Even a recent Grants Pass Daily Courier poll came in with over 3/4 of respondents opposed to this course of action. After dozens of public meetings and endless hours of public testimony over three years the commissioners have not followed the one simple course of action – the primary request of the good people of Josephine County – follow existing state law.
So, now to the list of national and international hirsute headlines coming from the BCC: high crime, high poverty rate, no law enforcement, joblessness – we can add what is likely to become regarded as one of the most incompetent, inept lawsuits ever filed by a county.
Pioneer Pete Gendron is President of the OSGG and runs Omnibudsman Enterprises. He is a Cannabis Compliance Professional. Pete is running for commissioner of Josephine County after 20 years of putting up with this shit. Pete can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org