Pubdate: Wed, 25 Apr 2012
Source: Press Democrat, The (Santa Rosa, CA)
Copyright: 2012 The Press Democrat
Author: Glenda Anderson, The Press Democrat


Traditional farmers are rallying against a novel June ballot measure
in Lake County that would extend "right to farm" protections to
medical marijuana growers.

Right-to-farm laws are intended to protect agricultural operations
from nuisance complaints that could threaten their viability. This is
the first time an attempt is being made to apply the law to marijuana
cultivation, farming and pot advocates say.

"Marijuana is not an agricultural crop. It doesn't deserve that
right," said Peter Bradford, a Mendocino County rancher and California
Farm Bureau director for Lake and Mendocino counties.

Proponents of Measure D, the Medical Marijuana Cultivation Act of
2012, disagree.

While it's not officially recognized as a farm crop by state or
federal authorities, "it is a farm product," said Don Merrill,
spokesman for the pro-Measure D group. The ballot measure is sponsored
by the Lake County Green Farmers Association, a group of medical
marijuana growers.

Measure D also would allow pot growers to cultivate up to 12 mature
marijuana plants in residential backyards of less than a half acre
outside city limits in Lake County. More plants could be grown on
larger parcels, with a maximum of 84 plants on properties that are
seven acres or more. It's opposed by county and police officials, the
local Sierra Club and the Chamber of Commerce in addition to farm
bureaus. Many fear it will lower property values and increase
pot-related crime.

"The biggest problem I have is the fact they want to be allowed to
grow (outside) in residential neighborhoods," said Lake County
Supervisor Rob Brown. Many cities prohibit outdoor marijuana growing
because it attracts theft and the smell can be powerful, even
sickening to some people.

County officials are concerned they won't be able to intervene when
pot growers create nuisances for their neighbors if Measure D is
approved by voters.

Farmers fear Measure D would dilute right-to-farm laws, which help
protect established farms from nuisance complaints made by people who
move to rural areas and then are surprised to learn that normal
agricultural operations can generate dust, noise and smells.

It's unclear how or whether Measure D would conflict with state codes,
but Lake County officials have threatened to abolish their local
right-to-farm regulations if it's approved.

Farmers worked hard to get right-to farm regulations passed, said Dave
Rosenthal, Lake County Farm Bureau's second vice-president.

He said it's not right for marijuana growers to attempt to gain those
farming protections for plants that are not officially recognized as
an agricultural crop and are not currently subjected to farming
restrictions on water and pesticide use.

"They want the shield of farming but they don't want to have to play
by the rules," Rosenthal said.

Mendocino and Lake county farmers are joining forces to oppose Measure
D. Their financial contributions will help hire a consultant to assist
with the campaign, Brown said. California Farm Bureau funding also is
expected, Rosenthal said.

Merrill, the spokesman for the yes on Measure D campaign said that so
far the group has spent about $32,000, including $12,000 to gather
signatures and $10,000 for its referendum effort that prompted the
Board of Supervisors to repeal the county's marijuana ordinance rather
face the cost of a special election said. The Green Farmers also have
committed $2,000 to a Measure D supporter who is running for county
supervisor, Joan Moss, he said. Moss is running against Brown in the
June election.

The newly formed opposition campaign has spent about $8,000, Brown

Farm officials fear that marijuana growers throughout the state will
seek right-to-farm protections should voters pass Measure D. "There's
a lot to lose here," said Mendocino County Agricultural Commissioner
Chuck Morse.

Merrill said the naysayers are overreacting. He said right-to-farm
regulations apply only to long-standing farms, so they won't interfere
with the county's ability to crack down on nuisances created by pot

And Lake County residents should welcome the limits on marijuana
cultivation. Currently, there are no local restrictions, the result of
the referendum effort..

"This would be a solution," Merrill said. 
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D