Pubdate: Tue, 03 Apr 2007
Source: Union, The (Grass Valley, CA)
Contact:  2007 The Union
Author: Robyn Moormeister
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


Local marijuana farms may soon be thinning out as the district
attorney plans to implement new, more stringent standards for growers
with doctors' recommendations.

Nevada County District Attorney Cliff Newell has completed a first
draft of the new standards, which reduce the number of marijuana
plants allowable from the current limit of five to 10 plants to a new
limit of six mature plants or 12 immature plants.

The proposed standards will also permit marijuana smokers in Nevada
County with recommendations to have eight ounces of the dried plant on
hand as opposed to the two pounds allowed by current standards.

A public forum addressing the reduction will be held April 18 in
Nevada City.

"We're doing this to target major commercial operations, not to
discourage recreational adult users or medical marijuana users," said
new Assistant District Attorney Anna Ferguson, hired last month by

Newell also plans to implement the state's Medical Marijuana
Identification Card Program, a card issued by the county meant to
verify a recommendation has been given by a doctor.

The cards make it easier for law enforcement to track those who are
valid users and those who are not, Newell said.

Nevada County Health and Human Services Director Jeff Brown is
expected to discuss the card program at the Nevada City forum.

The state charges $71 to process the ID card while local
municipalities tack on an extra charge to cover the local costs of the
program, Brown said.

He said medicinal marijuana is legal by state law if someone has a
recommendation, but a card offers added insurance for users who may
not be able to immediately contact doctors to verify the
recommendations for law enforcement.

"If someone is stopped in the middle of the night by a police officer,
that officer can check the state database on the Web and verify the
recommendation is valid," Brown said. "You can't do that with a
recommendation. It gives people peace of mind."

Ferguson said she expects a small percentage of people will be upset
by the new standards, "probably the people who live off of it."

When standards for medicinal growers in the county were originally
drafted in June 2000, prosecutors were not aware it is possible for
one plant to yield about two pounds, much more than one sick person
could possibly use for medicinal purposes before the shelf life ran
out, Newell said.

"When we first set this up, we weren't aware of what we were dealing
with, frankly," Newell said.

Three plants can easily yield a year's supply for one medicinal user,
he said.

Narcotics officers say marijuana's shelf life can vary from a few days
to a few months.

"A lot depends on packaging," Narcotics Task Force Sgt. Chris Sharp
said. "If it's exposed to moisture it can develop mold or fungus, but
if it's vacuum-pack sealed it can last longer."

Newell said many growers have taken advantage of the current
standards, many selling the illegal drug for a living and putting
children and neighbors at risk with dangerous growing practices.

"Children are not mini-adults," Newell said, adding that the health of
children who grow up around marijuana farms is often adversely and
permanently affected.

A helicopter ride over Nevada County reveals the entire area is
littered with marijuana farms, he said.

"It is growing thick in people's yards," he said. "There is a lot of

He said the drug is not harmless, especially in that it is often
traded for large amounts of methamphetamine, cooked in massive Mexican

"That's how (meth) gets up here," Newell said. "Marijuana is not
benign in a commercial sense."

Newell said he expects the forum will be well attended by supporters
and critics of the new standards.

The medical marijuana exemption forum will be held at 6 p.m., April
18, at City Hall in Nevada City, 317 Broad St.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake