Pubdate: Tue, 23 Oct 2007
Source: Arcata Eye (CA)
Copyright: 2007 Arcata Eye
Author: Jeff Schwartz
Note: Jeffrey Schwartz is a local attorney practicing in Arcata and 
living in Arcata with his family. He is on the Arcata Economic 
Development Committee.
Cited: Arcata City Council
Bookmark: (Marijuana - California)
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


The Arcata City Council is about to form a task force to study plans 
for a proposed ordinance to regulate the lawful indoor growing of 
medical marijuana plants.  Right now, people grow medical marijuana 
indoors surreptitiously and often under unsafe conditions; the amount 
of electricity needed to maintain a grow through harvest often 
overloads jerry-rigged systems in residential rental units. Growers 
show a lack of concern and until now, the city has failed to address 
the problem.

It is important that the task force be clear from the beginning about 
the role of the City Council. The council should not try to enforce 
the Penal Code and so the police should have no input on this issue. 
The council should view the safety of marijuana grows as they would 
the growing of heirloom tomatoes in residential apartments.

Tomatoes need a lot of sun, as does marijuana, and thus a lot of 
electricity. If tomato growers started growing Brandywines in 
residential neighborhoods, overloading the electrical wiring and 
starting fires, the community would have to do something about it. 
But bringing in the police would be out of the question.

The state allows medical marijuana grows. Humboldt County allows up 
to 100 plants or 10 square feet of plant canopy. Although that's a 
much greater allowance than you'll find anywhere else, this is not 
the time to debate whether these grows are really geared for the sale 
of medical marijuana. If a grower complies with state and county 
limits, the city needs to recognize it as legal.

But a valid question is whether agriculture belongs in residential 
houses and apartments, particularly in a city with a housing shortage.

So what to do? I believe that Arcata needs to provide public garden 
areas for people to grow medical marijuana in designated areas that 
are protected and secured.

These public gardens could be on City property in greenhouses similar 
to the types of grows now going on in apartment houses and homes. The 
police would stay off limits and the only inspection would be from 
building and safety and fire officials, who would make sure that 
these public facilities are safe.

Arcata should provide all individuals who have proper medical 
marijuana cards this opportunity to grow in the sanctuary of public 
gardens. The City could charge fees equivalent to the cost of 
electricity these people would spend on grows in their homes. We 
could also use solar energy to replace the thousands of megawatts now 
polluting our air.

How would this be funded? How are our community gardens now funded? 
It might mean an additional fee on landlords, but they will now have 
their properties protected from the risk of property damage or fire 
from illegal grow operations. The growers themselves can contribute 
what they can.

Finally, landlords have to start taking responsibility.  Landlords 
make money on their property and they have to make sure their units 
are safe and habitable. Just as we expect them to do something to 
stop a rock band from practicing in the middle of the night in a 
quiet neighborhood or a multi-unit apartment building, or make sure 
that a deck doesn't collapse or a bathtub drop from a second floor 
apartment because of rotted wood, we should expect them to do 
something about people operating grows under unsafe conditions.

A grow takes several months. It is not unreasonable for a landlord to 
inspect his or her property three times a year. Some do that now 
simply to make sure a tenant doesn't bring in a dog or cat.

Any city ordinance to regulate indoor grows should include sanctions 
to make sure landlords do their part; they are the front line in this 
quest to make the City safe from fires caused by marijuana grows.

Let's not spend a year on this. Let's treat this as a safety problem 
and a medical services issue. We need to allow those who are entitled 
to grow medical marijuana to continue growing.

But we need to also protect the City from hazardous conditions and do 
something about the inappropriate use of housing structures.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake