Karl Biederbeck: Asking Council not to consider moratorium

Esteemed members of the San Juan County Council,

I am writing to you today to share with you why I think you should not consider the proposed moratorium on greenhouse agriculture in this county, and that you should also not take the individuals who would like to see this happen seriously.


First I feel I should explain why this is important to me. I have been living on San Juan Island since April of this year. I have been working as a research assistant at the Friday Harbor Labs. My time at the labs has done wonders for advancing my career in the form of learning new skills and making excellent contacts.

I find this place to be one of most beautiful locations in the Pacific Northwest, and as someone who is very passionate about marine biology, living on an island has been quite a thrill. I also have enjoyed meeting the people who live here and find most citizens of this county to be some of the most friendly, open minded and forward thinking individuals I have ever met.

The only drawback to working at the labs it that I have only been able to work part-time and this has resulted in considerable financial hardship. The only time since I have been here that I did not have trouble keeping food in my refrigerator was during the two months or so this summer when I work for Jenny Rice's brother David to help with the construction of their greenhouses. It was the perfect second job for me.

David and their foreman we very flexible with the fact that I worked unusual hours at the labs. They were also very patient with the fact that I had never worked construction before and were willing to teach me skills.

The generous pay was more than enough to help me stay ahead financially and also helped me earn enough money to attend my best friend's wedding this summer in which I was a groomsman.

Sadly, they were forced to lay me off along with other part-time workers to reduce road traffic in order to ease tensions with one of their neighbors who is among those who are pushing for this moratorium. I am telling you this so that you will understand my bias, and what stakes I have in this.

Besides immediate financial gain (if I get my job back), I have a personal desire to see this legitimate business enterprise succeed because I believe that once citizens and lawmakers in my home state of Oregon see what benefit this has for not only business owners but also for the state of Washington itself (in the form of considerable tax revenue) while having a very minimal impact on the environment, they will push for a similar law to legalize recreational marijuana use and production.

Now that you know my personal stake in this, I would to look at the bigger picture of why I think the legitimization of recreational marijuana agriculture will be beneficial for your county, and how I believe that those who oppose it are either knowingly or unknowingly doing damage not only to the county, but also the entire state of Washington, and perhaps even the entire country.

I hope to do this using logic and reason, and I am expecting you to be logical, reasonable pragmatic people who care about the well being of the citizens of this county, and the rest of Washington. If I did not think you were rational people, I would not bother trying to communicate with you. I will do my best to only make true statements. As a scientist I believe in making sure that you can back up your statements with facts.

Unfortunately I barely have time to write this letter much less to create a bibliography. I am stating things that I believe to be true based on my first hand experience, general knowledge and intuition. If you do not believe something I state in this letter to be true, then I encourage you to fact check it for yourself. If we ever meet in person to discuss this, I will happily admit when I have been proven wrong.

I believe that the people who would like to impede the progress of the recreational marijuana production can simply be described as “enemies of the state”. What I mean by this is that they are putting their personal needs above the needs of rest of society. Hopefully I do not need to remind you why this is un-American, but if I do I would suggest reviewing the Declaration of Independence.

The reason impeding the progress of this venture puts them at odds with society is simple: they would rather see power and money in the hands of criminals than in the hands of honest business people. It is no small secret that despite years of prohibition and millions of dollars spend in law enforcement and “education” the marijuana industry (legal or otherwise) has never been eradicated. I would not be surprised if it has grown.

I think that the people who are trying to stop this industry from taking off in its legal form, would prefer to spend, no waste millions of tax payer dollars on trying to eradicate a demand for a product that will NEVER go away. There is no amount of dollars that could be spent to eliminate peoples desire to use marijuana relationally, and this is money that could be put to other practical uses.

Furthermore, the money spent on marijuana in the black market only ends up lining the pockets of criminals, instead of honest business men and women, or the state coffers. When you make a desirable commodity illegal, you simultaneously create an opportunity for individuals who are willing to risk imprisonment for profit.

This happened in America during the alcohol prohibition era. Organized criminals, who were also often violent individuals were able to exploit the fact that making alcohol illegal did not stop people from wanting to drink it.

Likewise, decades of prohibition on marijuana has not stopped many citizens in every state from using it recreationally. Every dollar they spent on this illegal commodity, ended up in the hands of criminals or “drug dealers”, who may or may not have been violent individuals, and may or may not have also dealt in much more dangerous drugs than cannabis.

The people who want to impede the progress of a legal market for marijuana are either knowingly or unknowingly willing to provide criminals with significant cash flow. They also either knowingly or unknowingly support the idea that it is better to spend tax dollars on drug enforcement and prisons than could be spent on roads, schools and other state expenditures, while at the same time banning the state from generating additional tax revenue from recreational sales.

I want to ask these people directly, how they can explain, using logic and reason, that this is better for our society. I want to ask them to explain why they value criminal enterprise over schools, and then explain how they are not putting their needs above the needs of the entire community. I want to ask them why they think legal, regulated growers can't produce marijuana more sustainably than criminals who have been known to use harmful pesticides, fertilizers and use firearms against wildlife in national forests on their grow operations. I want to ask them why they think job creation is not important. More importantly I want YOU as a community leader to ask them these questions.

Please consider the cost and benefit to people you are supposed to represent. Also consider the motivations of those who are proposing this moratorium and ask yourselves if you truly believe that they are putting the needs of the community above the needs of a small group of people. Then consider if you as a community leader should give weight to what such people say.


Karl Biederbeck

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