They Can't Take Your House, But They Can Still Take Your Weed

It was a bad night for marijuana, with legalization initiatives losing in Colorado and Nevada while South Dakota rejected a medical-marijuana measure. On a happier note, the backlash against eminent domain is spreading, with property-rights protections passing in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, and South Carolina -- everywhere but California, Idaho, and Washington.

The three propery-rights initiatives that failed -- and, in Arizona, one of the initiatives that passed -- went beyond restricting Kelo-style seizures, by calling on the government to compensate landowners when regulations restrict the use of their property. (A similar law passed in Oregon in 2004.) Opponents claimed this would break the government's budget. Presumably they prefer to break the budgets of private citizens.

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  • ||

    Some people seem suprised that the measure failed so narrowly in South Dakota.

    Those people don't know much about South Dakotans. My great-grandpa was 'smokin the reefer on the "high plains" a half-century before it was cool...

  • Dan T.||

    "The three propery-rights initiatives that failed -- and, in Arizona, one of the initiatives that passed -- went beyond restricting Kelo-style seizures, by calling on the government to compensate landowners when regulations restrict the use of their property. (A similar law passed in Oregon in 2004.) Opponents claimed this would break the government's budget. Presumably they prefer to break the budgets of private citizens. "

    I wish my state had passed this law - I was planning on tearing down my house and building a high-rise casino in my front yard. Unfortunately, the law resricts me from doing this. I figure I'm owed $100 million from the government, as that's the amount I would have made from this venture.

  • boltgirl||

    The AZ version is goes way beyond Kelo-style eminent domain. It was hugely supported by developers and companies that don't want to pay for protecting environmentally sensitive portions of their properties, or to be required to obey state historic preservation laws (lots of archaeology out here). It's going to make environmental and cultural resource enforcement very, very difficult.

  • ||

    "Presumably they prefer to break the budgets of private citizens."

    Because if you can't turn your house lot into a McDonald's drive through, you're going to end up in the poor house.

  • ||

    They can't take your house, but they can take your weed. On the other hand, they can take your house if they find your weed in it.

  • ||

    In CA, the anti-Eminent Domain prop 90 went down 52.5-47.5 in a campaign that saw some spending on the NO side and no spending at all on the YES side that reached me in San Francisco.

    I think with a little rejiggering and some $ behind it, it could pass in another try.

  • Jennifer||

    Because if you can't turn your house lot into a McDonald's drive through, you're going to end up in the poor house.

    No, Joe, but if you buy a piece of property intending to build a house on it, and then you can't do this because somebody saw an endangered woodpecker in a tree on your lot last year, good luck selling that building lot for anywhere near the price you paid.

  • ||

    Info on Prop 90 spending in CA.

    "Opponents raised about $12.45 million, compared with $3.77 million by proponents, according to the latest disclosure reports."

  • ||

    Jennifer,

    Regulations that deprive you of the use of your land and all (or something close to all) of its economic value are considered takings requiring compensation, and have been for 20 years.

    These bills were about taking taxpayer dollars and giving them to people who built 12 houses on 20 acres instead of 20 houses because they weren't allowed to fill in the wetlands.

  • Jesse Walker||

    Ron: I was waiting for that...

    Bill: It's striking that the measure lost narrowly in California but was defeated so soundly in Idaho. It's the opposite of what stereotypes would suggest.

    Joe, Dan, Boltgirl: Silly hypotheticals aside (I'm looking your way, Joe and Dan), the law shifts costs from the regulated to the regulators. Not a bad change in incentives, for the reason Jennifer ably described.

  • Franklin Harris||

    Given that the Feds would have rendered the Nevada and Colorado pot laws null and void, anyway, I'm just happy to see that both measures won the support of sizable minorities, 40 percent and higher. That that many people would say we should legalize marijuana was unthinkable back in the bad old days of Just Say No.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    It is so depressing to live in Californicate. Mrs TWC says that the prop rights initiative would not have failed except that it included the provision for regulatory takings (similar to the law that was enacted in Az).

    endangered woodpecker.....

    Jennifer, we recently lost acres and acres of a hillside in a narrow canyon that my kids call Poppy Valley because of the awesome spring wild flowers. It didn't make any sense at all that someone would bulldoze the entire property, much of which was nearly vertical. I'm thinking, man when it starts raining there's going to be problems.

    But nobody will be able to deny a building permit on account of there ain't any of those checkered butterflies or Kangaroo Rats.

    Course, Poppy Valley is history as well.

    Law of unintended consequences.

  • ||

    Gee TWC:
    Are you saying you wouldn't want anyone else's kids in Poppy Valley.
    All to often we demand from government to protect what we want by taking away someone else's rights.

  • ||

    Not to speak for TWC, but I interpreted his comments to say that had private developers not been so vexed on building on other property with the wrong mix of species this wouldn't have happened.

    Thusly, he and his kids loses a nice view as a result.

    It may have happened anyway, but it's not a stretch to make this supposition.

  • ||

    Anti eminant domain did pass in San Bernadino, however...(That is in Sothern CA)

  • Jennifer||

    Regulations that deprive you of the use of your land and all (or something close to all) of its economic value are considered takings requiring compensation, and have been for 20 years.

    Penn and Teller did a "Bullshit" episode last year featuring a disabled woman who bought a little lot with the intention of building herself a handicapped-accessible house. But she couldn't because of the possibility that a certain endangered bird might nest there. She has not received a dime of compensation, she can't build a house, she can't sell the property since nobody wants to buy it, and so now she's living on a friend's couch, and bathing herself with a garden hose in the backyard.

  • Jennifer||

    Oh, and the woman I mentioned in my last post is still paying tax on her property, of course. You know, to cover the cost of the wonderful government services she's receiving while sleeping on her friend's couch and washing herself with a garden hose like an animal.

  • Robert Goodman||

    What uses of the lot are allowed? Is the lot itself at least handicapped-accessible?

  • Jennifer||

    Robert, I am pretty sure it's legal to walk through the lot and say "Wow, the grass is so green and pretty." (Not that the woman who owns it can walk through the lot, but she'd be allowed to wheel herself across it, except the wheels of her chair would get stuck in the dirt and then she'd have to bathe herself with the garden hose again.)

    It is also legal to stand on the lot, sprout wings and fly, assuming you have the biological capability to do so.

  • ||

    FWIW, I think that the religious right in Colorado would have come out in favor of a ballot measure decriminalizing meth.

    But only if you intend to throw it away after you buy it.

  • Paul||

    These bills were about taking taxpayer dollars and giving them to people who built 12 houses on 20 acres instead of 20 houses because they weren't allowed to fill in the wetlands.

    Not true, joe. The CAO, or Critical Areas Ordinance of King Country requires that between 50 and 65% of 'rural' properties be left in a "natural state". This has put the hammer down on people who want to build a small mother-in-law house on a rural piece of land so the aforementioned can retire there.

    And any law which forces taxpayers to pay for the regulations they pass (or imply should be passed by voting in regulation minded candidates), how in gods name can that be a bad thing?

  • ||

    The reason the CA bill failed is because it had a whole bunch of other, unnecessary CRAP attached to it. I don't so much see it as a rejection of eminant domain abuse protection as a rejection of New York developers trying to craft a bill to their advantage for business dealings in Cali.

  • Gene Berkman||

    California's Proposition 90 to limit eminent domain had a big campaign against it, paid for by the Chamber of Commerce and the League of Cities. I saw lots of "No on 90" commercials, but no commercials on TV in favor.

    Yet the proposition received almost 48% of the vote, compared with 30% to 33% yes votes for Voucher initiatives in the early 1990s. It looks like limits on eminent domain would be a good issue to campaign on in future California elections.

  • Robert Goodman||

    Couldn't the wheelchair lady make money by renting out her lot as a park or wildlife preserve? Or for movie production? I'm guessing from the description that there's a shortage of wild land around there, or the bird thing wouldn't've been an issue, so it must be more valuable there than it would be in a rural area.

    Another possibility would be to sell it to a next-door neighbor, who might want a larger yard than exists on hir own lot.

  • Jamie Spencer||

    Don't forget though: if they find weed, they may be able to take your house...

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