A group of Calaveras County residents have taken the first step in an attempt to recall District 2 Supervisor Jack Garamendi over his support for commercial cannabis cultivation.

The Calaveras County Elections Office received a notice of intention to circulate a recall petition on Tuesday that was undersigned by 22 people who live in the supervisorial district Garamendi represents, which includes the communities of Mokelumne Hill, Sheep Ranch, Mountain Ranch, Calaveritas, Wilseyville, West Point, Paloma, Glencoe and Rail Road Flat.

Garamendi released a statement refuting all the allegations listed in the petition.

“Supervisor Jack Garamendi has shown by his support of the Commercial Cultivation of Cannabis a total disregard for the safety and wellbeing of the inhabitants of Calaveras County District 2,” the document stated.

The document alleged that the cultivation and distribution of cannabis in District 2 for commercial purposes has caused an increase in violent crime, environmental damage and put children “at risk of exposure to a Schedule 1 drug.”

Though the state recently legalized cannabis for recreational use, the federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 illegal substance with no medical benefits and high potential for addiction alongside drugs like heroin, LSD and ecstasy.

Marijuana growing has become the county’s largest industry since the Calaveras County Supervisors passed an ordinance allowing the practice in May 2016, prior to Garamendi’s tenure on the board.

Garamendi, of Paloma, ran unopposed in the June 2016 primary election and received 2,262 votes. He is a fifth-generation Calaveras County resident and the son of Democratic U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, who represents California’s Congressional District 3, which includes the counties Colusa, Sutter and Yuba

The document further alleged that Garamendi failed to properly report meetings he has attended as a representative of the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors, including the California Fish and Wildlife Commission.

It also stated Garamendi has failed to report his involvement with Foothills Rising, a progressive political movement based in Mokelumne Hill.

Foothills Rising is described in the document as advocates for Calaveras County to become a “sanctuary county,” referring to laws intended to shield undocumented immigrants from deportation.

In a written statement, Garamendi described the arguments made by the petitioners as “false and misleading.”

“The entire premise that I have a disregard for the safety and wellbeing of the residents of county is ridiculous,” Garamendi stated. “I am invested in this community and ran for supervisor to represent the residents of our district and make our community safe, healthy and prosperous.”

Garamendi stated that he supports a highly regulated cannabis industry as opposed to a ban on cultivation because he believes the only way to curb illegal pot growers is to tax the legal ones and use the money to fund the Sheriff’s Office and enforcement.

“A ban without enforcement is no ban at all and will harm our environment and community,” Garamendi stated.

Garamendi called the allegations that he didn’t report on a meeting he attended as required “patently false.” He also stated that he is a nonpartisan elected official and seeks input from as many community groups as possible, regardless of whether they are conservative or liberal.

For the recall to be eligible for the ballot, the petitioners will next be required to gather valid signatures from 25 percent of the registered voters in the district.

Robin Glanville, the county’s election coordinator, said the number of registered voters in the district was 5,275 based on the last report in February, so the petition would require at least 1,319 valid signatures to trigger a recall election.

District 5 residents gathered enough signatures last year to recall former County Supervisor Steve Kearney over his support for an asphalt plant near Valley Strings and voting in favor of removing off-site requirement at Olive Orchard Estates.

Kearney was recalled in the Nov. 8 election and replaced with Clyde Clapp, of Rancho Calaveras.

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.

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