Pubdate: Thu, 16 Aug 2012
Source: Press Democrat, The (Santa Rosa, CA)
Copyright: 2012 The Press Democrat
Author: Glenda Anderson


A Lake County Superior Court judge on Friday will decide whether to 
halt a month-long crackdown on medical marijuana cultivation in the county.

Thousands of pot plants being grown under the auspices of medical 
marijuana laws have been eradicated since the county adopted new 
restrictions on outdoor pot farms last month.

"What I'm doing is a full-on cavalry charge," said Lake County 
Sheriff Frank Rivero, who has embraced the July 9 ordinance.

Medical marijuana patients are suing to strike down the ordinance and 
halt the enforcement action.

"The county went on a rampage" that conflicts with state laws 
legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes, said Bay Area 
attorney Joe Elford, who represents four medical marijuana patients 
suing to overturn the ordinance.

The ordinance is an interim measure aimed at controlling the county's 
rampant marijuana farms until a permanent solution that balances the 
needs of medical pot patients with those of their neighbors and the 
environment can be found. Some residents have complained about the 
pungent smell of their neighbors' pot. County officials are concerned 
about the garbage, fertilizers and pesticides often left behind. Law 
enforcement cites increases in pot-related crime.

The temporary ordinance limits the number of pot plants that can be 
grown outdoors on residential parcels of less than a half-acre to six 
mature plants. The amount allowed gradually increases with the size 
of the parcel, with a maximum of 48 plants allowed on parcels of 40 
acres or more. It bans cultivation on parcels that do not have 
residences. The ordinance also calls for gardens to be screened and 
sets minimum distances from neighboring homes and schools.

The ordinance was adopted following a contentious daylong hearing 
attended by about 400 people. It was aimed at appeasing both pot 
proponents and opponents, but dissatisfied medical marijuana growers 
filed a lawsuit just days after its adoption.

The timing of the ordinance, which was adopted in the middle of the 
pot-growing season, poses a problem for growers, Elford said. People 
who planted, believing they were within the law, now find themselves 
outlaws and subject to arrest, he said.

His clients also contend the six-plant limit on outdoor pot gardens 
on small parcels is insufficient.

Elford earlier was able to get temporary restraining orders for his 
four clients, but other pot growers in the county have been subjected 
to the enforcement actions. He said they're living in fear of being 
arrested and having their marijuana confiscated.

Rivero said legitimate medical marijuana users have nothing to fear.

"I'm not looking at taking marijuana away from little Miss 
Magilicutty who is dying of cancer," he said.

Rivero said he and other Lake County residents are tired of people 
who are growing large amounts of marijuana under the pretense that 
it's for medical use.

"The Compassionate Care Act has been hijacked by a bunch of 
profiteers who hide behind it in order to grow large amounts of 
marijuana for profit," Rivero said.
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