Pubdate: Thu, 10 Jun 2010
Source: San Francisco Bay Times (CA)
Copyright: 2010 San Francisco Bay Times
Author: Dennis McMillan


In a lawsuit supported by California NORML (National  Organization for
the Reform of Marijuana Laws), Tehama  County patients filed suit on
June 4 against a county  ordinance that limits their right to grow
marijuana at  home.

The lawsuit, by the law firm of Edie Lerman and J.  David Nick of
Ukiah, asks for a writ of mandate to  strike down the Tehama ordinance.

The plaintiffs claim that the ordinance makes it  impossible for them
to legally exercise their  Proposition 215 right to cultivate medical
marijuana  for themselves.

The Tehama ordinance declares it a public nuisance to  grow marijuana
anywhere within 1,000 feet of a school,  school bus stop, church,
park, or youth-oriented  facility. It restricts gardens to no more
than 12  mature or 24 total plants on parcels of 20 acres or  less. It
requires outdoor gardens to be surrounded by  an opaque fence at least
six feet high and located 100  feet or more from the property
boundaries. Additionally  it requires every patient garden to be
registered with  the county health services agency for a fee to be

"The ordinance is an affront to property rights as well  as patients'
rights," declares Jason Browne, one of the  Tehama plaintiffs. "The
patient community has attempted  for months to work with the county.
They have snubbed  us at every turn." Browne adds, "We had no
alternative  but to sue."

California NORML attorneys argue that local governments  cannot
legally declare activities that are protected by  state law to be nuisances.

"They can't take everyone's rights away," says attorney  Edie Lerman.
"California law states patients can have  whatever they need for
themselves and for collectives."  Lerman warns patients to expect a
long battle, as the  case is likely to go to the appellate level.

Tehama's is the most restrictive of a number of  anti-cultivation
measures that have recently been  proposed by local officials hostile
to medical  marijuana. In another lawsuit filed by Lerman & Nick,
Mendocino County patients are challenging an ordinance  that limits
patient cultivation to 25 plants per  parcel, regardless of the number
of patients. The  ordinance was recently amended to let collectives
apply  for licenses for larger gardens of up to 99 plants  under
certain conditions.

"The right to cultivate is fundamental to Proposition  215's mandate
that 'seriously ill Californians have the  right to obtain and use
marijuana for medical  purposes,'" says California NORML Director Dale
  Gieringer, a co-author of Proposition 215. 
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