Editor's note: This is one in a series of opinion pieces solicited by the Journal. In the immediate aftermath of Nov. 8, it became very clear that people need safe spaces to discuss their ideas and feelings, and generally process what was the ugliest and most vitriolic presidential contest in generations. To that end, we reached out to a variety of community stakeholders, people who we felt could help starts this community dialogue. The response was overwhelming, and a full list of submissions complete with links can be found at the bottom of this post. We hope you'll also join the conversation by commenting online, writing letters to the editor and talking to each other.
The question everyone was asking me before the election was, "What will marijuana legalization mean for the environment here in the Emerald Triangle?" I thought Proposition 64 was ultimately likely to help our watersheds, mostly by leading to an earlier end to federal prohibition, and thus to a collapse of the black market for illegal weed. The steady progress of medical and recreational legalization would continue. A Clinton administration, and some Republican outliers, would keep pushing the federal agencies built around the War on Drugs.
But Trump's election and the resulting lopsided GOP control of all three branches of the federal government changes everything, and nothing for the better. The toxic combination of law-and-order rhetoric and racism that has always been the not-so-secret recipe of marijuana prohibition has just propelled to unchecked power a government far more ideologically extreme than any in American history.
Strong support for the Trump campaign from generally prohibitionist law enforcement, from the border patrol to beat cops to the supposedly nonpartisan head of the federal political police, who arguably threw the election for Trump in direct violation of the Hatch Act, doesn't suggest any easing of drug paranoia.
Of course young people and brown people and queer people and alive people across America are going out of their heads with fear and loathing now. At least some of them are gonna' wanna' smoke some weed. I know how I got through the Reagan years, anyway.
So there will still be a big national market for Humboldt pot, and quite possibly federal price supports. Which will send more transporters and retailers to prison, but make more growers rich. The Green Rush will continue, largely unabated, across the Emerald Triangle. Given the studied indifference of county authorities to illegal development driven by the thirst for weed profits, the only real limit in sight seems to be the ability of Humboldt County's land speculators to split up and sell off more parcels to the endless stream of would-be pot profiteers. They'll take a while to run out.
For many in Humboldt, it'll be great. County supervisors can join in the populist plutocrat moment by pleasing both their speculator allies and their customers, the Green Rushers, who are now also becoming campaign contributors. The North Coast Journal will enjoy plenty of ad revenue. For fish, and people who prefer to live in a community that isn't overrun by thugs, maybe not so great.
There are any number of reasons to avoid kakistocracy — government by the worst people, or literally by shitheads — but none are more important than the damage they do to the institutions and capabilities of self-government.
When you elect criminals to high office, they do not desist from their frauds, cons and constant abuses. It hardly needs explaining that the new American president is a man of breathtaking corruption, a man so venal he seems not even to understand that self-dealing is improper, indeed criminal in public office. But we can be certain that the corruption, incompetence and contempt for fact that Trump evinces will be reflected in his administration. These things have a way of trickling down, and of staining anyone who comes in contact with them.
Though they have lost the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections, Republicans have treated the last two Democratic presidents as fundamentally illegitimate. From 2008, Republicans abandoned any pretense of responsible government by voting as a bloc to oppose every Democratic initiative, regardless of the consequences for the country and its people. They have been rewarded for their intransigence.
Trump's criminality and Republican extremism will work together for the foreseeable future to give the GOP every incentive to use all of its considerable power to hold on to power despite its minority status. I would not be surprised if January's inauguration of President Trump is the last peaceful transition of power between political parties we see in the U.S. for decades.
Meanwhile, the environmental movement is as weak and divided as I've seen it in my three decades of advocacy. Many groups lack the vision, the will and/or the resources needed to fight effectively. Our federal environmental laws, a last remnant of the lost era of Republican good faith, have served for generations as our indispensable backstop. The Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act, not to mention the laws governing our public agencies, public lands and toxic substances, have given environmentalists critical leverage against wealthy, politically powerful industries and interests.
Today's extremist GOP is now free to do what it has been saying for decades it would like to do: Eviscerate, or repeal, those laws. I expect most to be gone or gutted by the summer of 2017. In their place, we will see not just policies that will serve frackers and pipeline builders and land speculators, but measures targeting those who seek to register their resistance to environmental ruin.
There will be resistance, to be sure. But Democrats have very little leverage, and environmentalists even less.
Scott Greacen is the executive director of Friends of the Eel River.
Submissions from NAACP of Eureka First Vice President Liz Smith, local attorney and U.S. Army reservist Allan Dollison, North Coast People's Alliance Steering Committee Member Tamara McFarland, Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills, Humboldt County Central Democratic Committee Chair Bob Service, local programmer and freelance writer Mitch Trachtenberg, Humboldt County Green Party Chair Dana Silvernale, Rabbi Naomi Steinberg, Humboldt State University assistant professor of history Leena Dallesheh, Friends of the Eel River Executive Director Scott Greacen and League of Women Voters Humboldt County President Rollin Richmond can be found by clicking their names.Editor's note: This column was updated from a previous version to correct an editing error. The Journal regrets the error.