This is our farm column from farmer Casey O’Neill. O’Neill is the owner operator of HappyDay Farms north of Laytonville, and a long time advocate for the cannabis community in Mendocino Co; more of his writing can be found here. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer. If you would like to submit a letter to the editor feel free to write to [email protected].
I am excited for the next steps in the development process of the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance. Member elections for seven seats on the Policy Committee open on Monday, February 15th. This is a milestone in organizational development that comes at a time of vigorous discussion and great turmoil for our community.
It is impressive to see the learning that our people undertake in order to engage in the complexity of the local permitting process as it relates to state permitting from several agencies, CEQA, and the pathway to Annual Licensure from CDFA.
As I look back over the past years of regulatory transition I feel mixed emotions. I’m proud of our community for navigating the shifting landscape and accelerating through a crash course in civics. We’ve absorbed the minutiae of local and state government in order to figure out how to survive the journey into the new regulations.
Our community is learning to organize itself, shaking off decades of Prohibition and the inability to engage in public as cannabis farmers. Organizing is never easy work, and the shifting complexity of policy development has added additional challenges to our shared efforts. There are so many issues to navigate, with so many potential consequences.
I’m disappointed in state and local government for decisions that have been made to over-regulate cannabis. Treating farming as “Commercial Activity” (per state regs) has had a host of complications for our communities of small farms struggling to navigate the shifting landscape. That disappointment surfaces as frustration that can complicate discourse and breed distrust. Language becomes charged, and it is imperative that we be conscious of the potential consequences.
Communication is the key to any organizational efforts that humans undertake. Policy development is the fruit that comes from the tree of civil discourse. By being able to gather and discuss, analyze and dialogue, we gain information and form policy positions. This shared effort is the essence of democracy.
Trade associations are the tools of businesses, each a member of a shared group defined by the trade in which each participates. But cannabis is not just a trade, to many of us it is also a social movement marked by a heritage culture, deeply rooted values, and a higher calling inherent in our relation to the plant. Our cannabis experience brings a complexity to our associative relations as we work together to create solidarity in navigating policy work, crafting support systems, and building resource and information sharing.
Like any grouping of humans, a trade association forms a container woven of the individual strands that we each represent. The container is as strong as all of the strands together yet as weak as any one alone. When we come together to build in shared effort, we must recognize that we are creating a deep and profound relationship. Like any other set of human relationships, it must be based in mutual respect and honored out of love.
There are many times where we do not all agree on a course of action. As with any relationship, when times are stressful the bonds are strained and the container tested. Surviving a difficult disagreement leaves each strand stronger and the vessel more sturdy than before.
We continue the journey forward into self-organization and representation in the political process. The way is murky and the challenges are many. By maintaining mutual respect, we engage in discourse that evolves positions based on the value of one person, one vote. We form a Strategic Plan that governs shared effort over the course of the year, coming together to revisit, revise and strategize as each new year begins.
It is with deep joy that I look forward to the member elections for the MCA Policy Committee. I delight in vigorous discourse, debate and dialogue. I am driven to participate in policy development and I appreciate those who take the time and put forth the energy to engage. Our community is rising to the challenge, engaging with policy makers at many levels of government. We are learning to communicate and honor discourse over vitriol. The challenges are many, but we are strong! Much love and great success!
The preceding article was an opinion column, or letter to the editor, and the opinions expressed therein are the author’s, not those of The Mendocino Voice. It was not necessarily edited for punctuation, capitalization, spelling etc. While, we reserve the right to copyedit and fact-check opinion pieces, and letters to the editor — and to annotate such pieces with fact-checking — we do not habitually do so.