Pubdate: Thu, 19 Aug 2010
Source: Tahoe Daily Tribune (South Lake Tahoe, CA)
Copyright: 2010 Swift Communications
Author: Adam Jensen


Council Forms Committee to Look at Medical Marijuana Cultivation Ordinance

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. -- Medical marijuana advocates scored a
victory Thursday when the South Lake Tahoe City Council backed away
from a proposed ordinance that would place a long list of restrictions
on medical marijuana cultivation in the city.

After more than four hours of sometimes heated public debate, the
council unanimously approved the formation of a committee to look at
how the cultivation of medical marijuana should be regulated.

The group is scheduled to present the city council with a revised
medical marijuana cultivation ordinance at the council's Oct. 5 meeting.

Thursday's decision was greeted with a rare round of applause from
audience members seated in the city council chambers.

More than 100 people gathered to hear the council's discussion. Some
watched the proceedings on a television outside council chambers after
Fire Marshal Ray Zachau determined the room's occupancy limit had been

Lack of Input Criticized

Representatives from the medical marijuana collectives in the city
pushed for creation of the committee on Thursday, following a lack of
input from the medical marijuana community in the development of the
cultivation ordinance.

A single meeting between medical marijuana advocates and city staff
after the city council imposed a moratorium on new medical marijuana
dispensaries in November 2009 was unsatisfactory, according to the
operators of the collectives.

The cultivation ordinance and a proposed ban on medical marijuana
dispensaries are moving forward under separate processes, but many in
Thursday's audience viewed the issues as inseparable because local
marijuana growers provide medical marijuana to the

A ban on cultivation in commercial buildings could also adversely
effect the collectives because each of the patient groups grow medical
marijuana at their facilities, although not necessarily to the point
of harvest, said Matt Triglia, one of the owners of Patient to Patient

"Let us have a fair process because, simply, we have not had that
chance," said Cody Bass, the owner of Tahoe Wellness Collective, on

Reality Absent From Ordinance, Advocates Say

Several medical marijuana advocates said the regulations, as proposed
on Thursday, were unreasonable because they were developed without the
input from the people knowledgeable about medical marijuana

Of particular concern to advocates were portions of the proposed
ordinance limiting limited medical marijuana grows to 1200 watts and
50 square feet. Many said the regulations would effectively limit
patients' access to medical marijuana in violation of state law.

"Realistically, you're trying to do something that, you're not
prepared for," said Gino DiMatteo, the owner of the City of Angels 2
collective. "The language in the ordinance is not specific to the
needs of the people."

"Twelve-hundred watts is not isn't enough for my personal use as per
my doctor," said medical marijuana patient Andrea Adams earlier in the

The city council needs expert advice prior to setting any regulations
regarding wattage of medical marijuana grows, Adams said.

Several people said the language of the ordinance, as proposed, left
the regulations open to legal challenge.

The ordinance was written after consultation with the fire department,
the building department and looking at regulations other cities had
enacted regarding medical marijuana cultivation, said City Attorney
Patrick Enright.

The 1200-watt limit was used because of the threat of resistance
heating posed by higher wattage, said Fire Marshall Ray Zachau.

Ordinance Receives Support

Las Vegas resident Steve Crupi and South Lake Tahoe resident John
Cefalu both said they supported the ordinance as written.

Crupi, who contends a medical marijuana growing operation caused more
than $10,000 in damage to a rental property he owns in Meyers, listed
the fire danger among the concerns he had with unregulated medical
marijuana grows. He said the council should pass the ordinance as soon
as possible.

Although he said the ordinance proposed Thursday "wasn't perfect,"
Cefalu said he supported the regulations because of the substantial
tab property owners could be left with following an improperly
constructed medical marijuana operation.

"This is an ordinance that's necessary because there's a threat to
property," Cefalu said.

South Lake Tahoe resident Jan McCarthy said she respected the rights
of medical marijuana users, but said some sort of regulation is needed
to protect landlords from potential damages caused by poorly
constructed marijuana grows.

A medical marijuana grower caused more than $30,000 in damage to a
rental property she owns, McCarthy said.

Councilman Questions Language

Near the start of the meeting, City Councilman Bill Crawford said he
supported some sort of regulation, but said he could not support the
vague language included in Thursday's proposed ordinance.

Precise language is necessary if you want effective laws, Crawford

"This sort of thing is very important, we could be headed for a lot of
trouble," Crawford warned.

Language in the ordinance opened the door to subjective enforcement,
similar to the complaint-based sign ordinance, Crawford said.

The councilman said he supported creation of the committee because of
the improvements needed to the ordinance, as well as previous
statements members of the council have made to the collectives about
their involvement in medical marijuana regulation.

"We need to keep the faith. We need to keep our promises," Crawford
said. "If we don't, we'll never be trusted." 
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