California bid to legalize pot cultivates varied Auburn-area viewpoints

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The Proposition 19 buzz is already hitting Auburn. With the potential to be part of the first state to legalize recreational use of marijuana, Auburn-area residents have strong – and divided – views on the proposition. Prop. 19 is on the Nov. 2 ballot. Auburn City Councilman Keith Nesbitt said he’s basically in favor of decriminalization of cannabis and taxing it. “But Prop. 19 is a tough call,” Nesbitt said. “We don’t want to make it available for young people, for instance.” From his own experience, Nesbitt said that he learned from other patients when his late wife was going through cancer treatments that cannabis was one of the fastest methods to relieve nausea during chemotherapy. “We need to decriminalize because law enforcement can spend their time on activities more harmful than that,” Nesbitt said. “But I haven’t read the fine print so it’s hard to comment on the exact initiative but for the most part, I’m in favor of decriminalization.” Back in 2006, Nesbitt’s was the lone vote against the City Council’s move to prevent medical marijuana dispensaries from setting up shop in the city. His argument against it was that the federal government doesn’t have the right to undermine the California electorate on medicinal marijuana. Auburn City Councilman Kevin Hanley voted in favor of the dispensary ban and said this week he’ll be voting against Prop. 19. “We don’t want more people to experiment with drugs,” Hanley said. “We need to help people put their lives together, get an education, find a good job and build stable families.” Hanley said that governments would have the financial incentive to tax marijuana sales if Prop. 19 passes and that would result in government having a stake in the industry. “But it’s like alcoholism,” Hanley said. “In my view, it’s slow suicide. People are not coping with life and they take a drug to forget about it.” Physician and City Council member Bill Kirby said he’s not opposed to the use of medicinal marijuana but everything he’s read about Prop. 19 indicates it’s a bad bill. “I’m not supporting it and I don’t know anybody who is,” Kirby said. “My gut reaction is a resounding ‘no.’” Bill Radakovitz, president of the Auburn Chamber of Commerce, said he couldn’t speak for the local business organization because the board hasn’t taken up the matter of Prop. 19. But Radakovitz said that while governments could realize a windfall in new revenue, it would be the wrong message to send. “My feeling is I wish it would all go away and I don’t think legalizing it will make it better,” Radakovitz said. Radakovitz, who owned Nancie’s Records for many years in Downtown Auburn, said that the store started out in the “Woodstock era” with a line of smoking products that were standard for music stores. When the Auburn City Council voted to ban the sale of marijuana pipes and other drug paraphernalia, Radakovitz said he welcomed it. “I said to (former Police Chief Nick Willick) that it was great because I now have an excuse not to do this anymore,” he said. While the Auburn chamber is not wading into the Prop. 19 debate, the California Chamber of Commerce contends it would force businesses to let employees smoke cannabis in the work place, which would lead to higher accident rates. Auburn’s John Stacy, who was interviewed this week in Downtown Auburn, said he doesn’t use cannabis but will be voting for Prop. 19 on Nov. 2. “I’m thinking why not regulate it and get the taxes,” Stacy said. “Treat it like cigarettes or alcohol. People are going to smoke it anyway.” Scott Holbrook, an Auburn Recreation District director, said he has mixed feelings more than a month away from the election. Holbrook said he’s concerned about the possibility of intoxication in the workplace. “I don’t want a bus driver driving around high on anything,” Holbrook said. But Holbrook said that the illegal market is already thriving and California voters have passed medicinal marijuana’s Prop. 215. “I have friends all over the spectrum and I think everyone knows someone – whether they know it or not – who smokes marijuana,” Holbrook said. “I also have two young children. I’m still very much undecided and could easily not vote on it.”