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NIMBY (Not in my back yard) And Cannabis Cultivation After Legalization

By Roger Malespin  photo/istock/SEASTOCK

We often focus on the major battles in the fight for legalization - state’s rights to legalize, decriminalizing small carry offenses, and countering anti-marijuana propaganda - but we can’t always see the way people are going to react after tangible progress is made. Recently, polls in Sonoma County, California, have suggested that the age old specter of NIMBY (not in my backyard) has reared its head among residents who voted to legalize marijuana use, but don’t want cannabis cultivation anywhere near their homes.

The poll, conducted on 500 residents of Sonoma County, show that 46 percent said they ‘would not feel safe’ with a cannabis farm anywhere near their residence, and just 19 percent of those questioned saying they would feel totally safe. Almost one-third of responders said they would feel safe if the farm was at least one mile from their home. These numbers are consistent with a December 2016 ruling, where residents soundly rejected a proposal to allow small scale ‘cottage grows’, essentially a small pot growing stash for each resident, thereby restricting growing to out-of-county, larger scale lots. 

The prevailing concern among the residents who voted against the measure seems to be fear of violent crime that is associated with illegal drugs. The same poll recorded that when asked the effect legalization would have on violent crime, a surprising 35 percent thought it would increase, and 40 percent felt there would be no effect. Only 18 percent felt that crime would decrease.

In 2017 and through May 8 this year, the period since adult use became legal, there have been six such crimes.
The two deadliest cannabis crimes — a Forestville triple homicide in 2013 and a Sebastopol double fatality in 2016 — both occurred during a marijuana deal gone bad while recreational use by adults was illegal.
Overall, the poll reflects a majority of people in Sonoma are supportive of recreational pot smoking, but resistant to having it grown in their neighborhood. The data is expected as a “period of adjustment” in a county becoming accustomed to the presence of cannabis as a legal commodity, said David Binder, whose San Francisco-based firm conducted the survey.
The high cost of complying with county standards for cultivation appears to be encouraging larger commercial farms. The county allows outdoor gardens ranging from 25 plants to an acre of cultivation, with minimum lot sizes ranging from 2 to 10 acres.
Santa Rosa rejected a proposed ban on outdoor cultivation of marijuana for personal use last year and limits commercial cultivation to buildings in industrial areas. 

This aspect is certainly an adjustment for the legalization movement. Most people are aware of the violence and crime that comes with illegal drugs, and it is not unreasonable to have concerns about how things will play out in the immediate period after legalization. So far, data shows no increase in violent crime related to cannabis in the year and a half since recreational use was passed. 

This is one of many adjustments everyone who supports legalization will have to deal with when wider legalization laws are passed. Would you feel less safe with a farm near you? How do you feel about cannabis farms in your area? Please comment and let your opinions be known