Pubdate: Wed, 9 Apr 2008
Source: Daily Triplicate, The (CA)
Copyright: 2008 Western Communications, Inc.
Author: Nicholas Grube, Triplicate staff writer
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


It was like a town hall meeting in the movies.

Citizens packed the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors chambers 
Tuesday, spilling into the hallways waiting for their chance to speak 
on a proposal to greatly reduce the amount of medical marijuana 
people can grow and possess.

"It's not enough," one man yelled from the crowd.

"What about the meth?" asked a woman.

"This will force us to get it from the streets," someone said.

Amid the interjections, both residents and law enforcement officials 
addressed the board--some receiving applause for their comments, 
others getting scoffs and laughter.

Today, the county's medical marijuana guidelines allow a person to 
cultivate up to 99 plants in a 100-square-foot area and possess up to 
1 pound of processed pot. The county wants to reduce these numbers to 
six mature plants and 4 ounces.

Many at the meeting said the new proposal is too strict, and, in at 
least one sense, they were right.

Del Norte County's attorney, Dohn Henion, said the county cannot set 
limits on medical marijuana possession that are less than what the 
state allows, which is six mature plants and 8 ounces.

"We are prohibited from going less than that," Henion said, 
specifically commenting on the 8 ounces.

The county will now try to come up with a new set of rules that 
comply with state laws. As a result of the meeting, affected medical 
marijuana patients and growers will now be included in this discussion.

District One Supervisor Leslie McNamer first suggested tabling the 
issue Tuesday, and the board agreed. She said more research needs to 
be done to find common ground with medical marijuana patients.

"I'm not going to be one of those people that's going to go from one 
extreme to another," McNamer said after the meeting about lowering 
the plant counts.

"I believe 99 plants is ludicrous," she said. "But I just want to 
make sure we don't lower it so much that we put those true, chronic, 
medical marijuana users at risk for arrest."

McNamer said she came to this realization after hearing what the 
public had to say Tuesday.

District Five Supervisor David Finigan set up the public comment 
portion of the meeting as a point, counter-point forum. This left 
many who opposed the county's proposal silent as there were more 
people who opposed lowering the guidelines than there were who 
supported the change.

One of those afforded the opportunity to speak was Doug McCarty, who 
helped come up with Del Norte County's original plant count and 
possession limits.

"The guidelines were not arbitrarily conceived," McCarty told the 
board. "The current system has worked well for certain people of this county."

He said the 99-plant and 100-square-foot rule was designed following 
scientific guidelines for plant yield. The amount of marijuana 
produced by six plants would not be enough, he said, and might cause 
people, such as himself, to seek their medication elsewhere.

"This would force me to get my medication from the streets," McCarty 
said, something he does not want to do.

A cannabis consultant and expert witness hired by local medical 
marijuana advocates, Jason Browne, echoed McCarty's statements.

"The current system you have right now is scientifically based," 
Browne said. "The number of plants to determine yield is irrelevant. 
It's the size of the canopy."

Pot yield is directly correlated to canopy size, he said, and with 
six plants, patients might not be able to grow enough marijuana to 
sustain themselves.

"It's actually a good ordinance as it is," he said after the meeting.

Law enforcement officials tend to disagree, saying the plant count, 
which is one of the highest in the state, invites non-compliance and crime.

Del Norte County Sheriff Dean Wilson said the number of illegal 
marijuana grows in the county is increasing, and the temptation to 
abuse the medical marijuana laws is there because of the street value of weed.

"The numbers are skyrocketing," Wilson said. "And the money is very appealing."

As the debate continued, one woman said she exemplifies the reason 
medical marijuana was legalized by California.

"I think I'm one of the typical people who needs it," Pat Brooks said.

She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and she said her condition 
continues to get worse.

The cost of electricity hinders her from growing marijuana 
year-round, she said, which is what she would have to do if the plant 
count was lowered.

"Here I am," Brooks said. "Help me, please." 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake