At its recent meeting, The City Council majority of Edwards, Cook and Agrimonti effectively blocked the workings of democracy in Sonoma by ordering yet another “study” of cannabis retailing instead of placing a legally-conforming voter initiative on this November’s ballot. Their action was a blatant effort to delay a vote, one that will inevitably affirm the city’s previous vote of 64% in favor of Proposition 64, which legalized the recreational use of marijuana in California.
There may well be aspects of the language contained in the qualified initiative petition that raise questions, but that initiative organizer Jon Early had to resort to such a monumental and costly effort speaks volumes about the ways in which the City Council has continuously kicked the cannabis “can” down the road. Years ago, this newspaper pointed out the economic and social realities of the emerging “potconomy” and the fact that the City of Sonoma had been derelict in taking the issue seriously by not making appropriate plans. Despite that, and the passage of Proposition 64, the city continued to twiddle its moral thumbs at the issue and with this latest action once again shows its terrible lack of vision and leadership. Instead of getting ahead of the curve on cannabis, the city has fallen woefully behind, and it’s been left to the citizens to drag the council into the future, kicking and screaming.
Whatever the city council’s legitimate concerns about cannabis, they pale in comparison to the already overblown alcohol consumption and sales in Sonoma, not to mention the use and abuse of other substances like opiates. Many say Sonoma has a “tourist” problem, but an “addiction” problem is more accurate. Rather than spending money on a useless study about cannabis retailing–a hurried study that is required by law to be completed in the next thirty days and could cost $25,000 or more–the city could have chosen to simply adopt the initiative as law, put it to a vote, or come up with an alternative initiative along the lines proposed by council member Hundley. If it is sincere about its concerns, the citizen’s money could be spent to take a comprehensive look at substance abuse and treatment in Sonoma, and how better to address it.
Three candidates for seats on the council spoke at the meeting, and all affirmed support for letting the voters decide the cannabis issue. Some correctly noted that state law set the stage for city regulations, and that it’s time to get on with it. That’s true now, and has been true for years. By abrogating the workings of democracy and visibly manipulating the democratic process to make it impossible to place an ordinance on the ballot this November, the council majority has betrayed the good faith and confidence of its citizens, yet again.
This leaves us to conclude that the upcoming council election provides the only remedy to correcting negligent council policy. Those who have repeatedly blocked the will of the voters must be removed from office, and we will support those candidates who properly understand that adult citizens should be trusted and treated with respect. Democracy demands no less.
— Sun Editorial Board