A controversial Half Moon Bay cannabis measure holds a narrow lead, suggesting that the town’s three greenhouse farmers will be allowed grow legal marijuana sprouts in “nurseries” – but residents have rejected other measures that would have expanded cultivation and sales in the traditional coastal town.
The measure – ahead by only 39 votes in a 51 to 48.8 percent tally, with fewer than 1,700 votes counted – would help farmers like 72-year-old “Farmer John” Muller, former mayor and longtime pumpkin farmer, who seeks to rent out his dilapidated greenhouses as a place for the baby plants.
The town, famed for its pumpkins, will not allow the growing of adult psychoactive plants or sale of cannabis products.
Cannabis is fiercely opposed by the town’s Catholic church, a committee of high school parents and others who warned it will change the town’s small-town character.
“I think it was a sympathy vote for Farmer John, who has done a lot of good for the community and is very popular here,” said Rick Southern, a parent on Half Moon Bay High School’s Health and Wellness Committee, who sought to suspend all commercial cultivation, processing and sale of cannabis for two to three years until more research can be done. “People felt that if it was the only way he could stay on his far, they wanted to provide support.”
The defeat of other measures shows that “a lot of people are uncomfortable with having more commercialization in town, whether it be adult plants, retail sales or manufacturing,” said Southern.
The tally only represents electronic votes; all of the mailed, dropped off, provisional and other paper ballots have yet to be counted. The county has 30 days to finalize results.
“It is a beginning,” said farmer Muller on Wednesday morning, as he was feeding his chickens, after a restless night of watching election returns.
It nurseries are approved, “we have to make sure it moves forward in the proper manner, and ensure it is done right,” said Muller, a registered Republican, Vietnam War veteran who was born on a San Gregorio dairy farm and has never used cannabis but needs additional income to sustain his small 18-acre farm. “If done properly, with licensing and permitting, we will look to move in the future with potential new planting.”
In addition to Muller’s Daylight Farms, two other Half Moon Bay businesses — ivy topiary grower Schickenberg Nursery and indoor flower and herb grower Rocket Farms — would be eligible to grow cannabis seedlings.
Opponents fear that nurseries could lead to expansion of large-scale operations — bringing out-of-town workers, perhaps criminals, to the quaint and isolated coast. It was also opposed by some of the town’s Latino residents, who fear that their youth could be lured to cannabis work or that undocumented farm workers would be deported if there’s a bust of a crop that’s still illegal under federal law.
In unincorporated San Mateo County, cannabis cultivation is allowed in existing greenhouses on the coast. But few existing greenhouses meet the standards.
In response, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved amendments that expand where cannabis can be grown. Specifically, the county reduced buffers from 1000 to 600 feet between cannabis growing and schools and homes, eliminated a 100-foot buffer around a cultivator’s property line and gave county officials the discretion to waive or modify security or surveillance requirements where cannabis is grown.
Cannabis tax measures also did well on Election Day, as local government officials rush to get in on what they see as a potential windfall in tax revenue. Even if cities don’t yet allow sales, officials said they wanted the taxes in place.
Morgan Hill, Mountain View, Santa Clara, Redwood City, Daly City, South San Francisco, Emeryville, Union City, San Francisco and unincorporated Contra Costa County all passed local cannabis taxes by large margins — despite opponents’ concern that it would boost the price of weed, undermining California’s fledgling legal pot industry and driving consumers underground.
Outside California, Michigan voters approved adult sales of recreational cannabis, making it the 10th U.S. state to legalize marijuana – and the first in the Midwest. Missouri and Utah gave the green light to medical marijuana.
Wednesday’s surprise resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, an outspoken opponent to all marijuana, also created a buzz in the cannabis community.
“This move by the President opens the door for the marijuana industry,” wrote Nathaniel Geoghegan of CMW Media, representing cannabis businesses, “and begs the question: are we going to see federal legalization sooner than expected?”