Pubdate: Tue, 27 Dec 2011
Source: Union, The (Grass Valley, CA)
Copyright: 2011 The Union
Author: Liz Kellar


The tug-of-war between county government and marijuana proponents 
continued to make headlines in Nevada County in 2011, and promises to 
heat up again early next year when a proposed cultivation ordinance 
goes before the Board of Supervisors.

Early in the year, local jurisdictions made it clear that 
dispensaries were not welcome here.

In January, Grass Valley City Council members voted down a proposed 
ordinance to allow and regulate dispensaries, instead joining 214 
California cities that have banned them outright. Council members 
cited concern about the effects of marijuana use on young people and 
worries over crime associated with dispensaries in some areas, saying 
those who genuinely need marijuana for medical reasons can get it at 
the nearest dispensary in Colfax, about half an hour away in Placer County.

And in June, Nevada County OK'd a permanent ordinance prohibiting the 
establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated 
areas of the county. Nevada City already had enacted a permanent ban, in 2009.

A group of fed-up homeowners in Alta Sierra helped spark a push-back 
against the growing problem of large marijuana gardens in residential 

Many residents consider the grow next door far from innocuous, citing 
concerns over odor, traffic and the risk of robbery. And those 
concerns led to a move by Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal to draft 
a sample countywide ordinance, which drew a packed house to a 
November Board of Supervisors hearing.

Draft sets out restrictions on growing pot

The sample ordinance would limit marijuana gardens to six plants in 
residential zones and 25 plants in any other zone. Those limitations 
would apply to collectives or cooperatives as well.

The proposal places significant limitations on where grows can be 
located. Indoor and outdoor grows would not be allowed within 1,000 
feet of any school, school bus stop, school evacuation site, church, 
park, child-care center or youth-oriented facility. Grows would not 
be allowed within 100 feet of a residence on a separate parcel owned 
by another person, or in a mobile home park within 100 feet of an 
occupied mobile home under separate ownership.

Outdoor grows could not be visible from a public right of way or 
publicly traveled private road, or within 50 feet of a legal parcel 
owned by someone else.

Other restrictions include noise, light and odor restrictions, as 
well as the building of a 6-foot opaque fence for outdoor gardens, 
and setbacks from property lines.

The owner or tenant must register with the Sheriff's Office and 
provide proof of a current valid recommendation; if the parcel is 
rented, the owner must provide written consent to the grow. The Board 
of Supervisors could establish a fee for registration.

A zip-tie purchase provision is included in the language of the 
ordinance, but it is worded as an option "for the convenience of the 
property owner and to assist in the enforcement of this ordinance, 
and to avoid unnecessary confiscation and destruction," rather than a 
requirement. The proposed ordinance also sets forth an abatement 
process for anyone not in compliance.

Community divided

At the November hearing, a standing-room-only crowd seemed evenly 
divided in their opinions regarding the proposed ordinance.

Those in favor shared concerns with noise, traffic, crime and odor, 
as well as the harm to property values. Several growers and medical 
marijuana patients spoke, telling supervisors they obey the law and 
arguing the proposed ordinance would be unduly restrictive.

And some simply wanted local leaders to recognize what Nevada City 
Councilwoman Reinette Senum called the elephant in the room -- the 
fact that illegal marijuana cultivation remains the economic backbone 
of the county.

Local cannabis activist Patricia Smith noted that cannabis is 
California' No. 1 cash crop, and that Nevada County is second only to 
the Emerald Triangle in statewide cannabis production. Smith, who 
runs nonprofit patient advocacy group GrassRootsSolutions, had hoped 
to work to overturn the county ban on medical marijuana dispensaries. 
In the wake of the recent federal crackdown, Smith has adopted a 
wait-and-see tactic on the dispensary front. But she strenuously 
opposes any move by Nevada County to ban grows.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom