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Jewish World Review Nov. 20, 2000 / 22 Mar-Cheshvan, 5761

Debra J. Saunders

Debra J. Saunders
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Consumer Reports

O Mendocino, how
green is your ballot? -- IN PALM BEACH, Florida voters may be spitting mad, but in Ukiah, Calif., voters are more, well, harmonious. On Nov. 7, the good people of Mendocino County passed a measure that decriminalized the cultivation and use of marijuana "for personal, medical or recreational purposes."

While state and federal laws against marijuana still stand, Measure G denies local funding for the arrest or prosecution of people who own up to 25 marijuana plants. The Big G also mandates police protection for those who grow marijuana for personal use.

Eh hem, I ask Dan Hamburg, a former Democratic congressman and G champion: 25 plants for personal use?

The answer: Not everyone has a green thumb. On the Mendocino coast, plants don't grow as heartily as they do inland. He admits that one could reap a pound from one plant, then adds sheepishly, "I didn't write it." The local Green Party did.

While Ukiah finds itself in the "Emerald Triangle" -- Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties, which produce an annual pot crop estimated to value near $1 billion -- locals have reason to bristle at the area's image as weed heaven.

This is not a one-lifestyle community; 42 percent of voters opposed Measure G. A motherly office worker tells me she voted against G because "there was no age limit." Chris Schallert, who owns the North Street Cafe, opposed the measure because marijuana will remain illegal. "If the law says you can't, you can't," he noted.

Still, there was no official opposition to the measure, no one submitted an argument against G for the voters guide.

Sheriff Tony Craver helped implement a program to allow the cultivation of plants under Proposition 215, which legalized medical marijuana statewide in 1996. Craver, who has said he doesn't have time to make arrests for "mom-and-pop gardens," nonetheless opposed Measure G. Craver was out of town when I was in, but last month he told The San Francisco Chronicle, "The greatest impact that we'll experience from Measure G is the misperception that the public will have that it will be legal for them to grow marijuana."

It might as well be legal for Hamburg. A gray haired, pony-tailed grandfather, he lives on a hill amid 46 gorgeous acres of woodlands in a rustic home with no oven, but a gurgling fountain in the courtyard. It is a far cry from the high-powered life he led during his one term in Congress that started in 1993. He was a media darling, largely because of his Robert Redford good looks.

High on his agenda today is his mother, who has breast cancer. She had lost some 30 pounds, tried synthetic pill-form marijuana, but it didn't work. She has gained weight since her daughter-in-law started making her Rice Krispie treats with marijuana and cooking with "green butter."

Both Hamburg and his mom have picture IDs, issued by the county after a medical check, that show that they can possess medical marijuana. The family's six plants even appeared on CNN. Then, someone stole the family stash. Hamburg wanted the local constabulary to investigate; didn't happen. But a claims adjuster for Hamburg's homeowner's insurance policy did. A State Farm spokesman confirmed that the company will pay on medical marijuana theft claims "if it has been approved for medical use. "

But don't expect the company to pay street value.

Does this mean that Hamburg, like George W. Bush, has become a convert to local control? "I think local control should apply when no one outside a geographical area can be damaged," Hamburg answered. Translation: For pot yes, but not environmental issues.

Sort of like Dubya, but the other way around.

Comment JWR contributor Debra J. Saunders's column by clicking here.


© 2000, Creators Syndicate