Milk Shake…Squid’s squishy backside was stuck to the couch all last week to watch the impeachment hearings of President Donald Trump in the U.S. Senate. Squid kept a bowl of shrimp-flavored popcorn on one side and a tentacle-held fan on the other for the stirring closing speech by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Los Angeles. Aside from those West Wing-style moments, Squid was obsessed with the weird, arcane rules the senators were supposed to follow, especially the water-and-milk-only beverage rule.
The bizarre Senate rule prompted CBS News Digital political reporter Grace Segers to issue this tongue-in-cheek tweet about a Republican senator from Arkansas: “TOM COTTON HAS MILK! This is not a drill. He has a glass in addition to his glass of water. He is the first senator I've seen to request and get milk. I repeat, Tom Cotton has milk!”
The irony of this symbol of wholesomeness as an allowed beverage inside a chamber of skullduggery against the U.S. Constitution was not lost on Squid. (And yes, it's straight outta the Constitution that the only drinks allowed during an impeachment trial are water and milk—were they not addicted to caffeine in the framers' days?)
While that absurdity was going on in D.C., the Monterey City Council met on Jan. 21. Another streak of wholesomeness mixed with absurdity was on display, courtesy Councilmember Ed Smith. He stood on moral grounds against allowing Coverton Lab, a high-tech agricultural testing lab, to do business in Ryan Ranch because about 50 percent of its business would be testing—gasp!—cannabis.
One of Coverton’s owners, Scott Willard of Corral de Tierra, thought he would get a permit from the city last fall, only to have it denied in November by Monterey Community Development Director Kimberly Cole. She declared that the lab would be a “public nuisance” under the city’s current marijuana ordinance, enacted in 2011—before recreational cannabis for adults was legalized in California. That ordinance also states that no business can be a part of selling, exchanging or distributing cannabis.
Willard appealed to the Monterey Planning Commission in December, and six of seven commissioners agreed with Willard that the lab should be treated like any other medical testing lab. There’s no nuisance, they said, and it won’t be a part of selling or distributing, only testing to ensure it’s safe for human consumption. City Manager Hans Uslar immediately appealed the decision.
During the meeting on Jan. 21, Willard walked the five-member council through how the process of testing cannabis works, under strict rules enforced by the California Bureau of Cannabis Control. The samples are picked up using the same chain of evidence methods that law enforcement uses, taken in unmarked vehicles to the lab where there are cameras everywhere in the lab and every step is meticulously recorded. The samples are in small quantities—not amounts that might entice bad guys to break in. The samples are unusable as recreational (or medicinal) cannabis by the time lab techs are done with them.
Lawyers representing Coverton’s would-be landlord made a legal justification for the lab, as well as pointing out benefits to the city, namely employing 30 to 40 people in well-paying technical and management jobs for college graduates and providing the city with revenue at an estimated $1 million over a three-year period.
Smith’s pearl-clutching then began. He sided with Cole's interpretation of the city’s 2011 ordinance and would not be swayed on moral grounds. Monterey should not get in the marijuana business, Smith said, and no amount of jobs or money would change his mind.
At one point Smith railed against the idea of cannabis being transported through the city. Squid about fell off the couch. Really? Smith apparently has no idea how much legal cannabis flows through Monterey on a daily basis through delivery services allowed under state law. And in a city where voters overwhelmingly supported Proposition 64, think of all the folks who drive over the city line into adjacent Seaside, Del Rey Oaks or unincorporated Carmel to pick up their legal cannabis—and bring it back home, legally—leaving their sales tax money in those municipalities.
The rest of the council declined to join Smith on his crusade. Councilmember Alan Haffa rejected that interpretation of the ordinance and added it was imperative the city keep a source of jobs that would keep CSU Monterey Bay graduates here. He led the way for the 4-1 vote that in addition to allowing the lab to get its permit, would bring the 2011 law back for some updating.
Squid raises a glass to toast the good sense of the council majority. No milk for Squid, however. Cephalopods can’t stomach lactose. Come to think of it, they can’t stomach absurd arguments either.