Pubdate: Mon, 29 Sep 2014
Source: Press Democrat, The (Santa Rosa, CA)
Copyright: 2014 The Press Democrat
Author: Glenda Anderson


Lake County's ongoing battle over medical marijuana regulations 
returns to the ballot box, with two measures this November that, if 
passed, would overturn the county's current pot ordinance approved by 
voters in June.

Measures 0 and P continue the tug-of-war over pot that is becoming a 
tradition of sorts. Each time the county attempts to enact 
restrictions on marijuana cultivation and dispensaries, pot advocates 
have challenged them with referendums, ballot initiatives or lawsuits.

Marijuana advocates have been more successful at obtaining signatures 
for ballot measures and referendums than in getting them passed. 
Voters soundly defeated their last ballot initiative, Measure D, in 2012.

The current ordinance initially was adopted by county supervisors 
last year. But they rescinded it and placed it on the June ballot as 
Measure N after pot advocates gathered enough signatures for a referendum.

"There are definitely two sides to this and it's definitely 
polarized," Lake County Sheriff Frank Rivero said of the dueling pot 
measures. He believes medical marijuana advocates refuse to accept 
the existing ordinance, approved by 52 percent of voters, because of 
the limits it puts on their potentially lucrative trade.

"The idea this is all medical is absurd. I'd say the vast majority of 
(marijuana cultivation) is for profit," he said.

Pot proponents say they're simply trying to allow patients to grow 
their own medicinal marijuana. The county's ordinance currently 
prohibits the growing of marijuana outdoors in residential backyards 
and rural subdivisions. Growing indoors is allowed, but it's more 
difficult and expensive to grow pot that way, they say.

As a result, the current ordinance effectively "denies people the 
ability to grow small amounts for themselves," said Daniel McLean, a 
spokesman for the Emerald Unity Coalition, which is promoting Measure 
O on the November ballot.

He said Measure O is a good compromise between the rights of medical 
marijuana patients and people who don't want marijuana in their neighborhoods.

Measure O proponents say it will, like the current ordinance, 
prohibit large-scale cultivation, but within limits that are not as 
strict. Both the current law and Measure O prohibit cultivation on 
vacant properties, but Measure O would allow up to four plants to be 
grown on residential lots smaller than 1 acre.

The current ordinance bans outdoor cultivation in residential 
neighborhoods and on parcels smaller than 1 acre or within community 
growth boundaries, such as rural subdivisions. Up to 48 plants can be 
grown on parcels that are zoned for agriculture and are larger than 20 acres.

Measure O would allow up to 48 plants on any 5-acre parcel with a 
residence. It also would create a county medical marijuana division 
to enforce the rules. The division would be funded by fees on 
collective gardens that have more than 12 plants per legal parcel.

Measure O, at 12 pages long, fills more than a quarter of the 
county's sample ballots and includes an exhaustive list of 
environmental regulations and enforcement guidelines.

Measure P is shorter and simpler, said author Ron Kiczenski of 
Lucerne. Its text doesn't even include the word "marijuana."

The "Freedom to Garden Human Rights Restoration Act of 2014" simply 
states that it's a natural human right to grow and use plants for the 
basic necessities of life.

"If you had a human right to grow a carrot, then I would have the 
same equal right to grow a cannabis plant," Kiczenski said.

While it places no limits on the number of pot plants that could be 
grown, it does specify that it is only for personal needs, he said.

"The minute whatever you're doing becomes a commercial activity, it's 
no longer protected by this act," he said. That includes selling it 
or growing quantities that clearly aren't for personal use, he said. 
It also specifies "natural" plants, thereby excluding genetically 
modified products, Kiczenski said.

North Lakeport resident Tom Guthrie, a member of Save Measure N, 
campaigned for the existing ordinance earlier this year. He said it 
appears to have already improved the quality of life for non-pot 
growing residents of Lake County.

In previous years, he and his wife couldn't leave their windows open 
in the summertime because of the overwhelming stench from their 
neighbor's pot plants, Guthrie said.

"Marijuana grows do not belong in residential neighborhoods," he said.

Rampant marijuana cultivation also is bad for tourism and creates an 
unsafe environment, according to Measure N supporters, who include 
the Chamber of Commerce and law enforcement officers. They say 
marijuana cultivation attracts crime, including home-invasion robberies.

Rivero said he believes the current ordinance is a good tool for 
controlling illegal pot growing.

"My hope is Measure N stays firm and we can continue to abate all 
this stuff, this illegal growing," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom