Pubdate: Wed, 17 Oct 2012
Source: Record, The (Stockton, CA)
Copyright: 2012 The Record
Author: Keith Reid


LODI - The Lodi City Council is expected to place a 45-day moratorium
on the cultivation of medical marijuana within city limits until the
City Attorney's Office can sculpt an ordinance that regulates how,
where and how much pot is reasonable to allow qualified patients or
caregivers to grow for personal use.

Lodi does not have an ordinance regulating medical marijuana
cultivation, and crafting one that does not impede on a patient's
rights can be tricky, Deputy City Attorney Janice Magdich said at a
City Council morning planning session Tuesday.

A 45-day moratorium requires a four-fifths vote of the council, and
could be extended after it expires, Magdich said.

The issue has come to the forefront because of increased calls of
service to the police department in recent years.

One family is speaking out against how their neighbor's medical
marijuana cultivation has forced them to see plants growing taller
than the fence, barbed wire and pit bull protection of the crops and a
strong odor from the plants wafting through the neighborhood.

The family is scared, stressed and embarrassed to live in the
southeast Lodi home they've owned for 27 years, the family's
spokeswoman, Christine Alberg, said.

"One man's rights should not superimpose another man's rights," Alberg

Police Chief Mark Helms said the department cannot do anything for
Alberg and her family because the neighbor is a qualified medical
marijuana patient with a permit to grow 99 or fewer plants a year.

The family says the stench of the plants fills the home with the smell
of a dead skunk, and going into their own backyard is a nauseating
experience. They thought about moving, but they say the value of the
home is diminished by the neighbor's presence and prospective buyers
would likely be repulsed by the situation.

State and federal laws allow patients to grow marijuana at their
homes, or in commercial and industrial areas. Cities like Lodi have
banned dispensaries that sell the drug, but for patients to cultivate
the plants for medical use is allowed under law.

"He is in full compliance of the Compassionate Use Act," Helms said,
referencing the state law's formal name in regard to Alberg and her
family's complaint.

Neighbor complaints about medical marijuana cultivation is not the
norm, said Sacramento-based Attorney Mark Reichel, who has represented
and advocates on behalf of medical marijuana patients.

In most cases, Reichel said, patients grow their plants indoors and
neighbors are often unaware of the activity. There's no smell, and no
safety risk for most patients, he added.

"It's almost all indoors and nobody even knows it's there. And, it's a
better product that way," he said.

However, Helms and Lodi police Sgt. Sierra Brucia outlined how medical
marijuana cultivation has led to crimes such as burglary. They asked
the council to consider an ordinance with clear-cut language that
makes their enforcement as straight forward as possible.

City Attorney Steve Schwabauer and Magdich led the council through a
variety of options for how they can adopt an ordinance to regulate the
cultivation of medical marijuana in a way that won't lead to future
lawsuits. Banning cultivation completely - something Tracy has done -
is an option, but is "buying a lawsuit," Magdich said.

Other options include banning outdoor cultivation, banning indoor
cultivation, or crafting an ordinance that allows cultivation with the
caveat that if the grow becomes a nuisance in defined ways, it will
violate the code.

Councilman Alan Nakanishi said he wants to see an ordinance that
emulates Tracy's ban along with other options that the City Attorney's
Office writes up for future approval.

The council will consider a moratorium on all cultivation of medical
marijuana at its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Nov. 7. An ordinance is
expected to be proposed within the 45-day time frame, Magdich said.
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