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To whom it may concern,
I was born in the era when Mendocino County was centralized around the booming timber industry. I witnessed this county in its glory days when Branscomb was an actual town with its own ball fields. When my small hometown of Laytonville had enough participants to support their own sports leagues without having to scour for every last able-bodied youth to field its teams. When our schools were filled with enough students to support the small class sizes and unique opportunities that allowed our youth to flourish. People were happy. Violent crime levels were low.
The community we live in today is a different picture. Our crime rates are climbing. Our school enrollments are declining. In the past, illegal cannabis money was helping to support these communities and really give them the extra push that they needed economically. But what we fail to realize was that it was the local timber industry that was really holding everything together. The logging industry provided jobs. It was our middle class. It was a way for our community members who didn’t participate in cannabis to make a decent living. Once our local timber industry crashed, we saw the effects it had on our population and felt the ripples. Our schools, police departments and hospitals suffered huge losses. It was a snowball effect that just got worse affecting each aspect of our communities. Sure, the black market saved a lot of individuals and our local economy was able to maintain as we saw new higher-end businesses coming into town being supported by a select few. But what we didn’t have any more was a working middle class or the population base to support our critical infrastructure.
I hear lots of arguments for and against Phase 3 cannabis expansion, but what I don’t think we hear enough is what is best for the people. I believe that under the current proposal set forth before you we will see the biggest improvement to our local communities that we have seen in decades. Cannabis expansion will give way to the return of the middle class. We will have the ability to provide jobs for people who otherwise may be working for minimum wage, struggling to survive and support their families. People will no longer have to make the tough to decisions to continue living minimally or relocating elsewhere to raise their families. People will have the ability to work as trimmers, farm laborers, lab technicians, agricultural specialists. They will be able to make a good living, to receive benefits and to establish Mendocino County as their homes forever. Cannabis has the ability to do what the timber industry did for our communities by way of return of the middle class.
I hear people say that cannabis is a part our heritage and the commercialization of it within Mendocino County would thus ruin what we were built on. But I disagree. Large-scale cannabis expansion would return us to our heritage. Our heritage isn’t just about our small cannabis operations. Our heritage is our people. Our heritage is our sense of community. It’s our children playing in our parks. It’s our schools having enough students to receive the funding necessary to support the special programs that once made them unique. It’s feeling safe because our crime rates are low as we have the means for everyone to make a good living. It’s knowing that when you’re in need of help your local departments can respond quickly because we have the ability to fund them. Our heritage is dependent on the middle class and without scaled cannabis expansion we don’t have an industry to support it.
I ask of you today to think about what is truly best for the people who reside in this county. Don’t just think about a few cannabis operators, but think about the future of our county. Think about the things that made us fall in love with this area. Think about what we could become again. Think about our true heritage.
Malila Gordon, Mendocino County Resident and Member of the Cannabis Community