Voices of the Peninsula: Why I am voting yes on Prop 1

  • By H.S. Norwood
  • Thursday, September 14, 2017 9:33pm
  • Opinion

For 32 years I have lived in a “non-incorporated area” of the KPB, which means I do not live within the city limits of Seward, Soldotna, Kenai, or Homer. I am voting YES on Prop 1 and hope you do as well.

Beware! Prop 1 is one of those oddly worded Propositions; if you do not want the sprouting “Cannabis Cultivation Industry” to take root and expand in the non-incorporated areas, then on Oct. 3 you want to vote YES on Prop 1.

These days any opposition to the cannabis industry is immediately sidetracked by labelling the questioner a “Reefer Madness” zealot. Let me clarify that within the privacy of your home and as long as you are at least 21 years old, “smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.” Feel free to grow and enjoy the 6 plants for personal consumption allowed by state law. I am happy that those truly in need of medical marijuana shall still have their source of retail supply regardless of the outcome of the Prop 1 vote (that’s a fact that gets blurred by the Vote No lobby).

I am voting YES on Prop 1 because I prioritize environmental equality for all KPB neighborhoods, incorporated or not. The applicable environmental law phrase is “Environmental Discrimination.” Environmental discrimination is evident wherever a neighborhood near any industrial enterprise uniquely suffers the negative impacts of that industry.

For example, environmental discrimination exists when Not In My Back Yard sentiments still allow heavy industry to build in the poorest of neighborhoods. These citizens uniquely bear the long term impacts of industrial externalities yet receive a much smaller percentage of their economic benefits.

To personally experience a form of environmental discrimination, drive out to Nikiski-North Star Elementary. You will not be able to avoid a large sign that is less than a mile from the school which emphatically states its support for growing pot. The school bus routes to the local elementary and even the middle-high school can’t avoid the sign either. Note that school kids in Kenai and Soldotna are not being constantly subjected to this messaging. Shall we all be shocked in the near future when the underaged use of pot is greater in the unincorporated areas?

So why is there a big pro pot growing sign near Nikiski-North Star Elementary but there is not one near a Kenai or Soldotna school?

Naturally, the land outside of the zoned cities with all of their amenities is cheaper by the acre and more plentiful. Thus, the economies of scale for commercially growing pot greatly favor establishing cultivation in the non-incorporated areas. The finished products are then sold in the retail stores located in the more densely populated cities. This business model means we bumpkins in the sticks will endure all the risks related to commercial pot growing just so that the retail stores in the cities can have a risk-free reliable supply of pot.

What kind of risks you may ask? Answer: all of them!

Of course mass cultivation economics also apply to tomatoes that are grown on unincorporated land and then hauled into town for Saturday market. However, no restrictions on eating tomatoes before the age of 21 exist probably because there’s no research documenting the negative impact that tomato eating has on the developing human brain through age 26.

A time machine would make it possible to offer more concrete examples of the environmental discrimination that underlies Prop 1. We were family planning when we purchased our home in Nikiski. Like yourselves, our home purchase represents the biggest financial investment of our lives. We would not have bought our current home had a commercial pot enterprise been a neighbor. Otherwise stated: We would have discriminated against such a neighborhood in favor of one that could guarantee no commercial pot growers were allowed.

Zoom the time machine back to today. If Prop 1 fails there is absolutely no guarantee that a commercial pot grower won’t set up close to your non-incorporated area home if they haven’t done so already. And … Surprise! You quite feasibly won’t become aware that your neighbor is a commercial pot grower until you are ready to cash in on your main investment and encounter due diligence buyers like me.

The fact isyou don’t know what you don’t know and no official at the state or local level knows the impact of a Prop 1 failure either. What we do know is a YES on 1 vote will 100 percent eliminate the pot-growing risks that we non-incorporated residents will otherwise uniquely bear 100 percent. A YES on 1 vote will nip the environmental discrimination in the proverbial bud. That’s why I am voting YES on 1 on Oct. 3 and hope you do, too.

H.S. Norwood holds a master’s degree in public administration and is a concerned resident of Nikiski who will be impacted by the outcome of Proposition 1.

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