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Our view: A special election would be an expensive but necessary way to prove county supervisors made a wise decision on marijuana growing.

Democracy can be messy sometimes. After months of vetting and revisions, three marathon meetings and hundreds of speakers testifying in front of the Butte County Board of Supervisors, the county”s marijuana-growing ordinance now could be the subject of a referendum election.

People opposed to a marijuana cultivation ordinance collected thousands of signatures in a month seeking to overturn the supervisors” 4-1 decision.

Now the county elections office has three more weeks to verify the 12,308 signatures on the referendum petitions. If at least 7,605 of those signatures are validated as belonging to voters registered in Butte County — no sure thing — then supervisors have a decision. Either they can rescind their decision or they have to hold a special election.

We hope the supervisors realize they passed a good ordinance and shouldn”t reverse course. If it comes to it, let the people vote on it. We are confident the supervisors will find a majority agrees with their decision. It would be an expensive way to make that point — special elections aren”t cheap — but a necessary action.

Just like the recent Measure A in the city of Chico, a referendum can be marketed in different ways. It”s telling in the case of Measure A that about 8,000 valid signatures were collected to put it on the ballot, but only 5,244 voted in favor of it on election day. It didn”t even garner one-third of the vote.

It”s difficult to know what kind of pitch people were given when asked to sign the marijuana-growing repeal. It could have been, “Would you sign a petition that gives sick people safe access to their medicine?” Most people would sign that.

The message also could have been, but most assuredly wasn”t, “Would you sign a petition that allows marijuana growers to have plantations with hundreds of plants, guarded by pit bulls and guns, regardless of what their neighbors think?” Fewer people would sign that.

We”re guessing the marijuana advocates put the sweetest spin possible on the referendum, playing up the link to sick people and glossing over the fact that this medicine has turned into a cash crop for some unscrupulous growers.

We think the voters have learned their lesson. Proposition 215, passed in 1996, wasn”t just about medicine for sick people. The supervisors” ordinance puts reasonable limits on growing. It balances residents” concerns with growers” desires.

The fact that some residents wanted the ordinance to be more restrictive, while growers wanted it to be more permissive, is probably a good sign. Supervisors have too much time and effort invested. They shouldn”t rescind a sensible law. If it comes to it, let the voters have the final word.

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