Marijuana isn’t the only thing Travis Ismay is petitioning to get rid of. The Butte County Trumpist and QAnon-ish activist and some of his right-wing friends are trying to remove four of their five county commissioners from office, largely because they have enacted ordinances to regulate medical cannabis in Butte County.
As evidence that pot makes people do funny things, Ismay and Dale Simanton of Newell and Katie Hoffman of Belle Fourche accused commissioners of a variety of misdeeds (as quoted by Jacob Hoffman in his thorough report):
- “Total lack of research constructing their ordinance, resulting in four ordinances being adopted in less than one year.”
- “Grandfathering in marijuana establishments under ordinance 2021-02 when they had not had final approval. Meanwhile, they had drafted a new ordinance that was being adopted that would put the marijuana establishments in violation of the amended ordinance 2021-02. Resulting in the county commissioners, giving a variance that basically nullified their ordinance.”
- “Completely ignoring citizens of their county with concerns of these marijuana establishments impact on their community. Many concerned citizens attended nearly every county commissioner meeting for the last 20 months trying to warn and plead with the county commissioners to at least curb the amount of establishments they were approving with no avail. These county commissioners approved, 14 marijuana establishments in Butte County before the state had even finalized a state law.”
- “Absolutely no environmental impact study was done for surrounding farms, irrigation canals, waterways, rivers, creeks or wetlands.”
- “Renewal of permits without verification that the marijuana establishments were compliant with State law 34-20G or Butte County amended ordinance 2021-2.”
- “Striking minutes from the record of expert witnesses testimony about the impact of marijuana establishments in Butte County.”
- “Illegal removal of a citizen during public comment and attempted removal of citizens recording device.”
- “During public comment, at the December 20, 2022 commissioner meeting, the entire room was told that we were to adhere strictly to the rules or there would be ‘consequences’. The anti-marijuana citizens kept all of our comments under five minutes. marijuana proponent had over minutes of public comnment. Without a single warning from any of the county commissioners concerning going over there time.”
- “Granting variances to the marijuana establishments, when these establishments were obviously in violation of amended ordinance 2021-2. 10.”
- “Stan Harms on May 2, 2023 during a County Commissioner meeting refused to allow a citizen of butte county that had been previously put on the agenda by the auditor, to ask a series of questions that the commissioners had reviewed before the meeting concerning their marijuana ordinance.”
Butte County’s anti-pot radicals deemed the above actions “gross negligence” and “gross partiality”. latched onto SDCL 7-16-14, which allows resident taxpayers to petition their state’s attorney to launch a civil action against their county commissioners for “malfeasance in office, misappropriation of public funds, or other misconduct”, and collected 120 signatures, 110 of which proved to be legit local taxpayers, calling on state’s attorney LeEllen McCartney to remove commissioners Stan Harms, James Ager, Frank Walton and Karrol Hermann and call a special election in 2024 to replace them. (Evidently, Ismay and his fellow petitioners feel they’d be better off with Ismay-endorsed Commissioner Chad Erk sitting quorumlessly impotent at the courthouse while voters wait a year or more to elect new commissioners.)
As evidence that pot drains resources from law enforcement, state’s attorney McCartney wrote an eight-page response deeming most of what the petitioners alleged bunk and none of what they said grounds for removing elected officials. Particularly hilarious allegation #4—right-wing radicals complaining that the government didn’t do an environmental impact study—turns out to be true but irrelevant, as nothing in the state’s medical cannabis law requires local entities to to study the environmental impact of marijuana establishments.
The only allegation with any stick is #8, the complaint that a marijuana proponent got more time to speak than opponents at the December 20, 2022, meeting. McCartney said, yup, that happened, and that’s a mistake, but that’s not gross partiality:
In this meeting, there were several speakers, including on who threatened to “kick the ass” of the Commission Chair, causing upset and disruption. It is unsurprising that the Commission Chair did not turn on the timer or properly note the time to limit remarks for the subsequent speaker. While allowing additional time during this meeting was a mistake, I don not find it rises to the level of demonstrable gross partiality. I would not that at subsequent meetings, including the one recorded for the prior allegation, members of the public with anti-cannabis opinions have been allowed to speak for longer than the allotted time. In that meeting the citizen spoke to the Commission for over nine minutes. There is no evidence of gross partiality [State’s Attorney LeEllen McCartney, response to petition for removal of Butte County Commissioners, 2023.05.24, in Jacob Newton, “Petition to Remove Most of Butte County Commission over Medical Marijuana Rules Fails,” KELO-TV, 2023.05.29].
The Butte County Commission thus remains fully constituted. The five commissioners convene next on June 6 at the Butte County Courthouse in Belle Fourche