Pubdate: Thu, 12 Mar 2015
Source: Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, CA)
Copyright: 2015 Appeal-Democrat
Author: Eric Vodden


Now that Yuba County supervisors have approved tighter restrictions 
for cultivating marijuana, opponents are deciding how to respond.

Supervisors took the expected action of approving the ordinance that 
bans outdoor grows and limits residents in the unincorporated county 
to 12 plants inside an accessory building. What wasn't expected was 
the unanimous vote Tuesday to designate the new law as an urgency 
ordinance - making it effective immediately rather than in the usual 
30 days. That action precludes opponents plans to seek a voter 
referendum, since the 30-day waiting period would have been used to 
gather signatures.

Attorney Joe Elford, who is advising Yuba Patients Coalition, said 
Wednesday morning he has to review the approved ordinance before the 
next step is decided.

"This is a blatant attempt of the Board of Supervisors to avoid the 
referendum process by changing what is an ordinary ordinance into an 
urgency ordinance," Elford said.

However, opponents could still circulate petitions for a voter 
initiative, which, rather than overturning the new ordinance, would 
create a new one. There have also been inquiries of county election 
officials on how to start recall drives.

"We also are exploring our legal options," Elford said.

But while opponents have said they aren't finished fighting the 
ordinance, there were more board supporters Tuesday night than in 
past sessions. Many said they were appreciative of supervisors 
standing up to what they called threats and intimidation.

Deidre Eschemann praised supervisors for their action.

"It has been intimidating in here, and you stood up to them," she 
said. "I want to thank you for standing up to them, and we will, too."

Mary Salvato supported the board in its approval.

"People think you are doing this for ulterior reasons," Salvato said. 
"I don't think you are."

Buck Weckman, organizer of the local Families Against Cannabis 
Trafficking, said he had hoped that "true medical marijuana users" 
would have helped work to come up with a compromise.

"But instead the commercial growers have taken over," he said. "There 
is no room to work with them."

Weckman said the new ordinance addressed the legitimate user by 
including the 12-plant allowance, though they must be in an accessory 
structure. Indoor plants aren't allowed in residences.

Supervisors used a letter from Gay Todd, Marysville Joint Unified 
School District superintendent, citing safety concerns at school bus 
stops near marijuana grows as part of the reason for the urgency 
designation. They also approved findings that included the impact 
that irrigating marijuana grows would have on the drought as a reason 
for the urgency designation.

Supervisor Mary Jane Griego said Tuesday the issue is not so much a 
matter of medical marijuana as what is an appropriate use of land.

"What we are taking up is a land-use decision," she said. "That is 
what local government does. It's a land-use decision."

Craig Litwin of Litwin Consulting, who is working with Yuba Patients 
Coalition, said in a statement that the group is considering "all 
political and legal options available."

"This includes negotiating with the county for a better ordinance, 
injunctive relief and/or a lawsuit, and recall elections of some 
members of the Board of Supervisors," Litwin said. "We will soon be 
moving forward with one or more responses to stop the supervisors 
from wasting taxpayer money, penalizing the sick and denying 
individuals basic property rights as afforded under the law."


Steps opponents can take

Unless there is a successful legal challenge to Yuba County's 
approval of a new marijuana cultivation law as an urgency ordinance, 
opponents will have to look to seeking an initiative instead of a 
referendum to get it to voters.

The urgency declaration means it takes effect immediately and 
eliminates the period during which opponents would have to gather the 
necessary 1,242 signatures of registered voters to force a referendum.

Joe Elford, chief counsel for Americans for Safe Access and adviser 
to Yuba Patients Coalition, said Wednesday a court challenge to the 
urgency determination is an option. He said he would have to compare 
the proposed ordinance with the approved ordinance before saying 
whether there might be a legal challenge.

"If they are basically the same thing with the same wording, that 
would be in bad faith," Elford said.

County Counsel Angil Morris-Jones said during the board meeting that 
it was legally appropriate to approve the urgency designation.

Otherwise, seeking an initiative to create a new ordinance is more 
complicated than forcing a referendum.

The first step would be to file a notice of intention with Yuba 
County election officials. That would have to include the actual text 
of the initiative. From there, the county counsel's office would 
prepare a ballot title and summary.

Initiative proponents would have to pay a $200 fee that could be 
refunded within a year if enough signatures on initiative petitions 
are determined to be of registered voters.

Once the ballot title and summary are completed, the notice of 
intention must be published in a newspaper of general circulation and 
a proof of publication filed with the election office.

At that point, initiative supporters can begin circulating petitions 
for signatures. They have 180 days to gather either 10 percent or 20 
percent of the number of registered voters in the county who cast 
ballots in last November's governor's election.

If they get 10 percent - or 1,242 - supervisors can either adopt the 
initiative ordinance, place it on the ballot for the next statewide 
election or order a report on the financial and legal impacts of the 
proposed ordinance.

If they get 20 percent - 2,483 - the steps are the same unless the 
initiative asks for a special election. In that case, the board would 
have to set a date for a special election.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom