Jason Walsh: Will Sonoma bogart legal cannabis?

“The illegality of cannabis is outrageous,” Carl Sagan said in 1969. “An impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.”

Sure, but what else would you expect from a do-nothing stoner like that guy?

No doubt the late author of “The Demon-Haunted World” would be highly interested in doobie-haunted world of Sonoma this Sept. 11, when a special meeting of the Sonoma City Council will give residents and city officials a chance to weigh in on any potential updates to the current moratorium on cannabis dispensaries within the city limits.

In I-T reporter Christian Kallen’s Sept. 1 story previewing the issue, “City to Get Rolling on Cannabis Regulation,” local medical-cannabis advocates Jewel Mathieson and Ken Brown voiced their hope that the City’s views on marijuana have by now evolved with the times.

While many North Bay jurisdictions have more willingly adapted to relaxing attitudes about cannabis, when it comes to similar progress in Sonoma the city is, in a word, waiting to inhale.

It was less than two years ago when the City Council voted to re-affirm its prohibition of marijuana dispensaries. And then last November the Council approved (Rachel Hundley the lone “nay” it should be pointed out) two 45-day moratoriums – presumably now expired – on cultivation in advance of the eventual passage of Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana in California. Granted, both those moves were necessitated by state deadlines for local municipalities to re-assert local controls on pot sales and cultivation, but given some of the comments made by council members at the time, you’d think Sonoma was on the verge of devolving into the loopy backdrop for a Cheech and Chong movie (and, alas, not the sublime “Up in Smoke”).

Make no mistake: Proceeding with caution in regards to the culture-changing ramifications of an end-of-prohibition moment is the wise thing to do. But Sonoma should proceed nonetheless. No longer can city officials – not simply in Sonoma, but anywhere in California – hide behind the safety of cannabis’s illegality. It’s a legal commodity – or, will be come Jan. 1 – and one that received 57 percent of the electorate’s stamp of approval. It’s polling higher than tobacco, soda and twist-off table red combined. It won’t be so easy for city officials to say to voters, “Thanks for your input, but we know what’s best.”

While the ink is quickly drying on the “Pot for Sale” signs that can go up after the New Year, Sonoma will have to settle on a host of issues – not the least of which include regulations on the cultivation of cannabis and its dispensing. The when, where and how much of pot grows will surely be hotly debated in most communities – as neighborhood grow houses haven’t exactly fostered pristine reputations. But, again, up until now, those have basically been outlaw businesses. The black market for marijuana is about to become a green market – and its respectability will rise like smoke in a bong of cannabis tax revenue. It will also help if the City properly zones for sizeable operations – outskirts of towns are always a safe option, perhaps there’s a business corridor to the east the city could look into annexing.

Irony of ironies if wine country, of all places, thumbed its nose at the prospect of peddling a legal recreational intoxicant. Some might say hypocrisy of hypocrisies.

However Sonoma hashes this out, we can all rest easier knowing it won’t be the first time the city embraces the repeal of a ludicrous prohibition with, as Sagan put it, “insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.”

The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, he said.

Here’s hoping Sonoma mirrors no such outrages in the vineyards of its wisdom.

Email Jason at

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.
Send a letter to the editor

Our Network

The Press Democrat
Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Sonoma County Gazette