Grover should ignore ‘whore’ comment and become Pot Capital of Central Coast

Grover Beach is quickly positioning itself to become the Pot Capital of the Central Coast, and I can already foresee a day when farmers hawk organic strains of weed from roadside stands and the annual Marijuana Festival comes to rival what Gilroy does with garlic up north.

Some people are not happy about that.

Take former Mayor Ron Arnoldsen, for example, who likened City Council members to prostitutes for their quick accommodations to marijuana businesses.

Arnoldsen strolled up to the lectern during public comment on May 15 and sarcastically identified himself as a resident of “Groovy Grover Beach, the jewel of the Cannabis Coast.”

He then went on to recount his childhood growing up in a small Nevada town with “two little houses of ill repute.”

“I was told the ladies there would do anything for money,” he said. “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. Are you whores?”

If he’d been holding a mic, he would have dropped it. Instead, he just turned and walked off while the crowd groaned.

First off, I would expect more from a former city leader than old-school hooker shaming. It’s one thing to think the council is selling out and a whole other thing to paint them with a vulgar slur.

Councilwoman Mariam Shaw, mother of an 8-year-old daughter, was justifiably offended by Arnoldsen’s flippant comparison and called it hate speech.

In a commentary to Cal Coast News, however, Arnoldsen was unfazed by any backlash and doubled down on his position while simultaneously making almost no sense whatsoever, which is a pretty impressive feat.

“I ask, are they greedy whores?” he wrote, kicking it up a notch before going on to insinuate not once but twice that some council members might be personally compensated for approving the ordinance allowing marijuana businesses.

In other words, they might be open to taking bribes? If that’s what he’s saying, such an act would be illegal, which is a pretty reckless accusation.

And it came after Arnoldsen conveniently attempted to rewrite history by claiming that a “whore,” according to Merriam-Webster, was just “a venal or unscrupulous person,” which is some brazen cherry-picking of dictionary definitions.

“It does not designate the person’s sexual affiliation,” he wrote of the word, “or that they are performing sex acts.”

On that second part, yeah, it actually does.

Here’s how the online entry reads. Definition No. 1: “A woman who engages in sexual acts for money.” Definition No. 2: “A male who engages in sexual acts for money.”

Definition No. 3: What Arnoldsen said.

The fact that Arnoldsen would spin a tale about growing up in the shadow of his neighborhood brothels as a lead-in to suggesting city leaders might be “whores,” but then pole-vault past the obvious meaning of the word to the least-common definition is audacious.

He claims that he’s not opposed to marijuana use but is simply concerned with the impact it will have on Grover Beach.

That’s his only bona fide point. Yes, there are legitimate concerns with the burgeoning marijuana industry. Where these businesses go, how they are regulated, and what impact they might have on the community are worthy issues for debate.

But is Grover Beach wrong for aggressively pursuing a potentially lucrative legal industry that could boost its economy?

Absolutely not.

Let’s face it: Grover Beach is the red-headed stepchild of the South County. It doesn’t have the pier or panache of Pismo, nor the village charm of Arroyo Grande.

It does have the Oceano Dunes, but that’s mostly the city serving as a drive-through for off-roaders filling up on gas, beer and food.

Instead of sitting idly by while a city like Paso Robles finds a way to pair wine and marijuana, why shouldn’t Grover woo weed?

Unfortunately, it’s not so easy as merely watering the pot shops and watching them sprout into a mellow little community.

The key to broad economic growth is not only getting people to come to Grover, but to stay there as well, and pot probably isn’t the answer because polluting the air in public places is widely illegal under state law.

So while wineries can lure tourists with tasting rooms, we won’t be seeing beachfront smoking dens anytime soon.

Nevertheless, Grover’s leaders should be applauded for recognizing an opportunity and trying to seize it.

And they should be undeterred by scare tactics, faulty logic and outright misrepresentations.

Ron Arnoldsen owes city leaders an apology. Not only was he crude and faithless in attacking their motives, but he was disingenuous and manipulative as well.

Despite what he may think, there’s a vast difference between cultivating marijuana and selling sex.

Joe Tarica is senior editor for The Tribune. 805-781-7911,, @joetarica

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