One-Lane Bridge, two-way street


Chandler Road passes over the confluence of Spanish and Greenhorn Creeks on one of Plumas County’s many one-lane bridges. I use it frequently, and always relish the moment.

Think of the one-lane bridge nearest to you. You’ve met a car coming the other way, and figured out easily who crosses first. One driver pulls over at a wide spot and waits. Common courtesy here, nothing unusual. You could probably find a regulation on this in the driving code, if necessary, but it isn’t. Not here. Not yet.

No stop signs, even.

We never ask the oncoming driver, at a Plumas County one lane bridge, about his age, religion, or politics. No, we cooperate for the common good: a simple formula, but rare. Our County preserves a culture of courtesy at its one-lane bridges by a long tradition of “do unto others” and the rule of law.

Stop signs unnecessary

An aggressive driver could force his way across these bridges, refusing to yield. Somebody might even get hurt and property be destroyed. People stop trusting one another. Social contract gets broken, community undermined. Then Public Works might put up stop signs. Stop signs and laws become necessary only where a culture of courtesy fails, and becomes “every man for himself.”

When did you last drive your car in Los Angeles? During five years living in Philadelphia, common rudeness in traffic amazed me. I’ve never been to Singapore or Bangkok, but I’ve heard some. Consistent enforcement of existing laws might encourage people to drive courteously, in theory—though increasingly laws do not restrain the lawless.

We’re all good people, and we’re all potential barbarians; we can default to forcing our preferences on others—the rule of power. But the rule of law, carried on for a long time, promotes a culture of courtesy, or only slows our descent into barbarity. Rule of law takes constant effort, and yes, enforcement. Nothing comes as easy to us as law-breaking in self-interest. Law keeping takes effort.

Common good or self-interest

Plumas County cannabis growers claim to love the rule of law. “Please regulate us,” they say. They’re compassionate, generous, law-abiding—so long as they write the law and so long as the money rolls in. When laws threaten their profits and they plead, “Don’t make us criminals,” we wonder. If they loved the common good in the rule of law, they could as easily stop growing cannabis, learn a trade, perhaps grow food. But that’s apparently not on the table.

They are more committed to growing cannabis than to following the law for the common good. No one can change a law-breaking commitment into a law-keeping one just by changing the laws. They boast, threaten, and demean those who are working for laws that consider all Plumas County “priority citizens” rather than simply considering growers “priority citizens.”

Good faith opportunities

Our Supervisors have put up a stop sign. They’ve set a brief moratorium on growing to consider the common good. Now’s the growers’ chance to show that they honor the rule of law: they could stop at the stop sign. This growing season they can “stick to their six,” growing each plant as large as their skills allow. By keeping this law, they could show that they value law-keeping and the common good more than they love personal profit.

They could even show their compassion and generosity rather than solely self-interest. They could even donate any surplus to those in need. This moratorium offers growers a unique opportunity to demonstrate good faith and generosity not ruled by profit motive.

Instead, some growers have declared, “You can’t stop us; we’ll grow anyway,” by which they mean commercial—more than their legal six. When they say this (they may not advertise what they do), they tip their hand, showing they actually despise the rule of law for the common good.

Will the growers wait for the laws to change, or gun their engines for a rush on the bridge? Better stay back; if they hit that stop sign they’ll send it, and a lot of other things, flying. Cannabis commerce has so far shown itself a friend to its own interest and the enemy to common courtesy and public responsibility.

Watch what happens next.

14 comments on “One-Lane Bridge, two-way street

  1. Barbara Price says:

    Thanks for another thought provoking, insightful message. For the sake of all, I hope that the cannabis growers do follow the moratorium provisions and the rule of six. Most of us are agreeable to recreational cannabis, within prescribed limits, and recognize opportunities for medical cannabis use. I also hope that respectful conversation and active listening regarding the interests and motivations of each side continue.

  2. Ken Donnell says:

    Using this metaphor of a single lane bridge, I feel that compassion requires persons on both sides of the bridge to act with the needs of the other party in mind. There are those of us within the cannabis industry who honestly seek to address the concerns of writers such as Mr Covington, but are ignored by no-commercial-grow community. Instead of trying to build common ground with someone who respectfully disagrees, the writers of this website have tended to pursue the “battle mentality” of the webmaster. Can Mr Covington not see that this adversarial “battle mentality” is, in itself, destructive to the serenity of our local lifestyle. Compassion is a good word to use. But please remember, compassion must be practiced on both sides of the bridge. Respectfully,

    1. Taurin Wilson says:

      I’m a second generation resident, I love Plumas County and its people, I’ve always been proud to live in a county that is comprised of folks with vastly differing views that have historically been able to work together despite those differences. Some of the people who I cherish most in my life have political and ideological views that are the polar opposite of my own.
      There is a noticeable emphasis by contributors to this site, to characterize people who hold a different opinion about this issue in a negative light; rather than stating an opinion and presenting information that supports that view, a huge amount of the space on this site is devoted to painting fellow citizens in a negative light.
      Personally I have zero profit motive, and I believe that limited commercial is in the best interest of the safety of my community, my opinions are a reflection of what I believe to be the “common good”, I believe strongly in this community and its people.
      I think it’s important to affirm that,
      (1) We are all neighbors here, I know people in the CGRCO and I know that they are not bad people simply because we disagree on this issue. I wish the same sentiment was reflected by contributors to this site.
      (2) The “common good” can only be realized through recognizing and understanding the needs of all who are involved and through the recognition that we are all motivated by what we feel is best for the community, even if we disagree on how to best achieve that goal.
      Let’s build community, not dived it.

      1. Taurin Wilson says:

        Correction: “Let’s build community, not divide it.”

  3. William N. Dennison says:

    I commend the author(s) of “One Lane Bridge-Two way Street”. The first half reviews Plumas County as we knew it.
    I know the bridges. I was raised in Meadow Valley/Quincy, returned to work in Plumas County as a forester and County Supervisor. I knew the dreams and aspirations of the Plumas County from 1945 through 2006.
    I fully appreciate the philosophical mood of requesting everyone in the sandbox to play fair and nice. We know that will not happen with the Commercial Pot Intruders. They want to own and…. they have large financial support to buy the play box. It will be the Outside Gangs that will then set the rules, in spite of law, to gain the huge profits which they WILL obtain. If that sounds radical, check with other counties that have had to take drastic steps, because they attempted to negotiate and…waited too long.
    The article discusses the Board of Supervisor’s (BOS) moratorium to develop a good faith understanding. I suggest that this was merely a “line in the sand”, not a stop sign and has provided the Gang Leaders time to finance a campaign that could over-rule the BOS, if they at sometime decide to oppose the commercial growers. Follow the money carefully during the next six (6) months.
    The citizens are facing a different social attitude by new residents and apparently the Board of Supervisors. Based only on the newspaper report of a recent BOS meeting, long-time Ranchers are viewing the hemp as a sound investment…with less concern for the low-grade marijuana; an issue which I don’t fully understand. There was no reported opposition, even though there had been reports that the Sheriff’s department would attend the meeting.
    It appears that the Board of Supervisors has stalled a final decision, not voiced their support, nor opposition to the commercial Pot growers …and not expected to until….. after the Primary election. Is it probable that they do not know the will of their constituents, or is the risk too great for their reelection. They should let their intent be known now. Further, BOS refuse to heed the actions of most northern California counties, who understand the negative impacts of highly financed outsiders degradation of the cultural and social integrity of rural areas. Plumas County Supervisors have failed their constituents on this issue.
    I am most impressed with “One Lane Bridge–Two Way Street” in the recognition of the final truth of current situation. “Cannibis commerce has so far shown itself as a friend to it’s own interest and the enemy to common and public responsibility.”
    Plumas County and the current Board of Supervisors will be well served, if they fight the Cannibis commercial growers based on those facts. They will never negotiate, you must stop them.
    Thank you.
    Bill Dennison

  4. Greg Kinne says:

    There are a few jerks in any group. I have found the serious commercial cannabis group to be courteous and professional, just like you and me. The MAUCO initiative is a great case in point. It does everything I can think of to accommodate the needs of the whole community, limiting size and mitigating negative impacts. MAUCO may not be the exact fit for Plumas, but it is a great thing to study for those who are interested in doing the best thing for our community. 1,000 people signed that petition, so there is obviously a large segment of our community that wants to have a say. Many communities have successful commercial cannabis activities that serve well the ‘common good’; jobs, revenue, economic stimulation, diversification and sustainability. These are things we need here! Rather than vilify those who don’t agree with you, I suggest actual conversations where you (we) talk about concerns. After all, common good only grows from common ground. Respectfully, Greg Kinne

    1. Sharon Covington says:

      Greg, Sharon here with a brief comment. Of the signatures collected for the MAUCO initiative, 715 were certified by the County Clerk (just four signatures above the 711 required)—still a substantial number, but not the over-1000 collected. A number of people signed because it was presented as giving citizens a chance to decide, to weigh in—not because they supported the details of the ordinance (which probably very few have read to date). People signed supporting what was told them, not the content of the actual ordinance. I urge anyone to read it carefully.

      I appreciate every courteous interaction I have seen and experienced with local growers. I have also seen enough incivility, threats, name-calling and ad hominem arguments used by pro-grow folk to form the opinion that civility is the welcome exception in this dialogue. Pro-grow leadership seems to have judiciously encouraged only the more gracious to speak on their behalf recently.

      I would also simply re-iterate that our group exists to work against the establishment of commercial cannabis in Plumas County.

      1. Taurin Wilson says:

        Ad-Hominem Definition (merriam-webster):
        1 : appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect an ad hominem argument
        2 : marked by or being an attack on an opponent’s character rather than by an answer to the contentions made.

        Quotes from CGRCO members on this site:

        “Resorting to every logical fallacy in the book, have characterized the shallow, self-interested approach.”
        “A commenter on described the changes cannabis has brought to her Colorado county. She writes of jobless people who come with hopes of scoring marijuana handouts and food stamps. When offered work, their drug habits make them short-term and unreliable employees.”
        “More self-interest (or delusion)”
        “They’re compassionate, generous, law-abiding—so long as they write the law and so long as the money rolls in.”

        I do hope that growers adhere to the moratorium until we can get this all sorted out.
        Respectfully Taurin Wilson

    2. David Covington says:

      Courteous, community-minded growers assure us that, although commercial cannabis has hurt lots of communities, they can make it work here. We appreciate the tone of those growers, but not enough to make us ignore the industry’s record. The cannabis industry has drawn self-interested people in two waves to every community that has welcomed it: first, some who can talk persuasively—wolves in sheep’s clothing. After this first wave, the rude and the criminals have always followed. Could a well-crafted pro-grow ordinance (MAUCO isn’t; more on that soon) help Plumas County public spirit thrive on cannabis commerce? Very unlikely, but we’re speaking to a more fundamental question: is it worth the risk?
      Some of our neighbors are eager to take this risk on behalf of all of us. We will keep seeking to persuade them to a more responsible position as long as we can. When persuasion fails, it is our duty to oppose their efforts. Should opposition fail, it will be our duty to help the people in our community trashed by the cannabis industry. We seek the community good; courtesy is our watchword, firmness our strategy: No commercial cannabis activity. Only dewy-eyed idealists and the strongly motivated fail to see why. Some of our neighbors are both, but we’d like to stay on speaking terms. There are lots of other community interests to talk about.

      1. Taurin Wilson says:

        First, I respect and appreciate your passion for your beliefs and the basic reasoning behind them, I just respectfully disagree.
        I am grateful to the CGRCO for providing this platform for us to have an open honest conversation, about what is for many an uncomfortable topic.

        I would like to make clear that I am not a grower, I do not buy cannabis, I am not associated in any way with MAUCO, Keep Plumas Green, or any other organization, and I don’t know, or speak with anyone from those groups; I speak on my own behalf only.
        I am also not a “dewy-eyed idealist” and my opinions are based on what I believe to be right for the community, not out of any “self-interest”. I feel it would be more productive to focus on the content of the subject at hand.

        When considering the pros and cons, it is important for everyone to understand that Plumas county has a had a healthy commercial cannabis industry for decades. The big players in the illegal market make annoying legal growers look like Mr. Rodgers. They don’t card minors, they don’t pay license fees, and they often times are making a living from our public lands.
        We know people aren’t going to stop consuming cannabis, and we also know not everyone can grow what they consume; at a certain point I think we owe to ourselves to be realistic about the inevitabilities concerning these two facts.

        Would citizens be better off/safer buying cannabis from the black market, or a regulated, taxed business? Would the county be better off with its citizens supporting the black market as opposed to a licensed, taxed, ID checking, business?
        I don’t believe that legalization will completely eliminate the black market, but offering a more socially, and environmentally responsible choice is better for the folks who will be purchasing cannabis, but want to make responsible purchasing choices, it will reduce the funding to, and therefore the strength of, the black market in our community.
        Objectively speaking there are huge differences between the MAUCO proposed ordinance and the ordinance that was used in Calaveras County, they are not similar.
        I respect your right to disagree with any or all of my beliefs, but I believe we can be neighborly to one another and refrain from casting doubt on each other’s character to make a point. Let’s keep this up, I mean it; I appreciate you taking the time express your feelings on the subject.

        Thank you, have a great day. Sincerely, Taurin

  5. Ken Donnell says:

    I am pleased to see a vibrant, respectful, and frank discourse about this subject. The more we discuss the issue of commercial cannabis in Plumas county, the closer we will come towards common ground that creates solutions. Legal cannabis is a huge transition for everyone. And for many, on both sides of the issue, it is a painful transition. While I may disagree with specific opinions, I recognize the importance of listening carefully to such options that are different from mine. Thanks to the writers above who have shared their opinions. It is our willingness to listen to different opinions, and respectfully disagree that I find to be the most endearing quality of life in Plumas county. But when I observe opposing camps form where neither side is interested to speak with the other (or anyone in between), that I see the real quality of our life in Plumas county slipping away. An open mind and an open heart is our best pathway to a future where legal cannabis, at whatever level, is an asset to our local lifestyle, and not something to be feared or ignored.

  6. Ken Donnell says:

    Responding to Taurin Wilson….. I agree with his comment that the Moratorium should be respected “until we get this sorted out”. What I want to ask everyone reading is to please help us expedite this process of sorting out cannabis issues, and please have an open mind to listen to other points of view during this process. We are not in a rush, and we do not want to be part of the GREEN RUSH, but we do have people in need who will be best served by forthright pursuit of a local solution regarding cannabis activities. There are many moderate cannabis activists, and I encourage those opposed to “commercial cannabis”, to engage us moderates in conversation, and please do not pre-judge us based on the actions of others who hold a more extreme pro-cannbis viewpoint.

  7. Ken Donnell says:

    Mr. Wilson’s comments are, in my opinion, well focused and well framed. I agree with a philosophy that the best method to control a local cannabis industry is to actually control it…. with a reasonable, enforceable, and widely respected clear document about local regulations for the local cannabis industry. Pretending cannabis cultivation business in Plumas county does not exist is a clear pathway to endorse the black market. Black markets are exactly the kind of unlawful activity we want to slowly eliminate through legalization. And while a small grey market will probably emerge as some people barter or monetize the left over from their 6 plants (like garden tomatoes), it is anticipated that this can be reasonably controlled and enforced. Please remember, this is not an easy, or always linear process. We all have lots of challenges before us as we navigate this historic process. But we have begun this historic journey, and in the end, we will be much better off than before when we were ensnared by an illegal, and completely black market cannabis system. This is good change, but we need to stay engaged, and co-operative.

    1. Patrick Luscri says:

      I appreciate Ken’s desire to “eliminate” the cannabis black market in our county. However, statistics and real-world law enforcement accounts in Colorado and other states say it ain’t happening. In fact, they indicate that legalization and regulation haven’t even begun to budge the needle toward elimination.

      People who operate in black markets—with any product—simply adapt and overcome regulatory attempts. I invite any local commercial cannabis advocate to research reports from Colorado sheriffs and others tasked with enforcing regulation.

      According to the Colorado Department of Public Safety, statistics show that arrests for the production of black market pot increased by 380 percent in the 2014-16 time frame. In fact, Colorado law enforcement agencies say they are “battling a boom in illegal marijuana cultivation by sometimes violent groups of criminals who rake in millions of dollars by exporting what they grow.”

      When we consider the fact that California produces seven times the cannabis the state can consume, the magnet for criminals who wish to grow and export product cultivated here naturally exerts a much stronger pull than in Colorado.

      Law enforcement testimony and statistics argue that California cannabis regulation—like Colorado’s, Washington’s and Oregon’s—will do little to reduce black market activity. Those who are willing to break the law for profit will continue to do so.

      In fact, some growers in Humboldt County say they won’t be regulated because of the costs, restrictions and headaches involved. They say they’ll continue operating illegally and hope enforcement goes after bigger grows and leaves them alone.

      The notion that regulation will eliminate the black market and make law-abiding citizens out of law-avoiding ones just isn’t legit. Facts, stats and real-world reports from those who are battling to enforce it say otherwise.

      Are we to believe that Plumas County would somehow be the glorious exception? Human nature is human nature in any state, county … or on any planet.

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