Consensus may be building when it comes to marijuana, but make no mistake: cannabis policy can still be a pretty contentious issue. In Grover Beach, some say it has even led to hate speech by a former mayor.
Ron Arnoldsen, who served as mayor from 1992 to 2004, recently attended a City Council meeting where the allowance of medical marijuana businesses was up for discussion. Arnoldsen got pretty passionate about the whole thing and ended up likening the majority female board to a bunch of prostitutes. It didn’t sit well.
“Are you whores?” the former mayor asked the Council.
He’d prefaced the rhetorical question by saying he used to live in a small town in Nevada near a house of “ill-repute” where the ladies “would do anything for money.”
“Now I live in a little community on the Central Coast of California, and I’m told that the City Council will do anything for money.”
Arnoldsen's comments immediately offended Councilwoman Mariam Shah, who is calling it an example of hate speech against women. But is it really?
Arnoldsen says his words were not directed at the board’s female members and that he was only making a point about council members putting money above the interests of their constituents. At least one other council member, Debbie Peterson, believes him. She said she’s more concerned that the criticism could stifle public debate.
“The point of spirited discourse is discussion of the issues,” said Peterson. “The issue raised here is the concern that the council is selling out and will do anything for money. Let’s discuss that concern, not the delivery. Making it about delivery redirects the conversation, rather than dealing with a very serious concern that he took the time to come to a meeting to voice publicly.”