Second, industry-backed measure

being reviewed by Elections Department

By Sally Morris

The Trinity Journal

A proposed commercial cannabis tax circulated for voter signatures by members of the Coalition for Action on Local Finances (CALF) has failed to qualify for Trinity County’s Nov. 3 ballot.

A competing cannabis tax proposal circulated by the grower community represented by the Trinity County Agriculture Alliance was submitted Monday, July 27, to the Trinity County Elections Office for certification, and those results are still pending.

The CALF petition was submitted to the Elections Office last Friday, July 25 containing more than 900 signatures where 533 were required to qualify for the ballot. The organization’s attorney, James Underwood, was notified Monday, July 27, in a letter from Elections Official, County Clerk/Recorder/Assessor Shanna White that the initiative had failed to qualify for the ballot.

 She stated a number of reasons, including the fact that the ballot title and summary did not appear on each section and across the top of each page of the petition on which signatures appear. Lacking that, she said it is not evident voters knew what they were signing.

She said circulators must also set forth in their own handwriting their resident address and the dates in which signatures were obtained. In multiple sections the circulator included their street address, but no town or state; and all of the sections had preprinted “from” dates.

In addition, the Elections Department noted the following irregularities: each section was stapled together, but obvious staples were removed from some; one section had three page eights, but no page nine or ten; in one section, the pages were out of order and did not include page ten; in one section, the circulator declared they circulated the petition through 7/24/20, but signed their declaration on 7/3/20; and one section declared her “or” another person circulated the petition, but only she signed it.

Attorney Underwood called the news “disappointing, given that so many CALF volunteers worked so hard, and with such passion, in order to present the voters with a cannabis tax addressing both legal and illegal commercial activities. But there is little doubt that the over 900 Trinity County residents who signed the petitions, together with the dozens of petition volunteers, will continue to support, advocate for and work toward county adoption of a fair and comprehensive commercial cannabis tax in Trinity County. How, and in what future form this will take, will be decided by CALF coalition partners based on continuing discussions.”

Regarding the reasons cited for disqualification, he said the title and summary for the initiative was well over a page in length, so the cited statutory requirement to include it at the top of every signature page could not have been technically met.

 When that has occurred in other jurisdictions, he said a reviewing court has been asked to provide guidance on whether the petition sufficiently made persons aware of what they were signing.

Underwood said the title, summary and entire text of the proposed initiative was included on each petition and he believes “there could be little doubt about signing party awareness of what was being signed.” However, he said CALF will respect and abide by the decision of Shanna White, the Elections Officer, whom he believes is doing her job as objectively as possible.

He also addressed other irregularities cited, including staples and missing unsigned signature pages that he said “would not appear to be of such concern to independently disqualify the CALF petition, “nor was this said to be the case. Here, as well, while it could be argued that the Elections Officer was overly technical in her interpretation of the applicable statutes, her overall decision will not be disputed.”

Underwood said CALF partners instead will reassess options for assisting in the adoption of a commercial cannabis tax measure in Trinity County, “like most every jurisdiction in California that permits commercial cannabis activities has in place and proceed accordingly. Preferably, that would be achieved in collaboration with industry representatives to the extent possible, but given the extraordinary amount of illegal cannabis activity in this county, the solution must address both legal and illegal activities, as the CALF proposal would have done.”

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