Pubdate: Wed, 08 Apr 2015
Source: Chico Enterprise-Record (CA)
Copyright: 2015 Chico Enterprise-Record
Note: Letters from newspaper's circulation area receive publishing priority
Author: Ryan Olson


Oroville - Butte County officials provided a clearer picture Tuesday 
of the effort to enforce Measure A, the voter-approved ordinance 
regulating the physical size of medical marijuana grows.

County Counsel Bruce Alpert also updated the Board of Supervisors of 
the lawsuit filed by four medical marijuana patients challenging the 
measure as unconstitutional. He reiterated that the measure remains 
in effect, despite posts to the contrary on social media networks.

"We are vigorously enforcing Measure A today," Alpert said.

Tim Snellings, director of the Butte County development services 
department, reported to the Board of Supervisors that there have been 
74 cases to date, resulting in 16 citations.

That's an increase from preliminary numbers from March 27, where 
there were 53 reported cases and 6 issued citations.

The fines incurred from the citations currently total $21,000, 
although only $3,815 has been paid to date.

Site inspections have also led to the discovery of two marijuana 
refining labs and five criminal arrests.

Oroville-area Supervisor Bill Connelly said there have been some 
online postings about the legality of refining labs that use butane 
oil. District Attorney Mike Ramsey said such labs using chemicals 
fall under the same law as methamphetamine labs.

"It is illegal and it is being prosecuted," he said.

Snellings said most of the cases thus far have been indoor grows and 
officials have seen a number of unpermitted buildings. The largest 
concentration of grows is around Oroville.

He said much of the growing appears to have moved indoors and the 
move appears to be due to Measure A's requirements.

Improper grading still seems to be a problem but it isn't as bad as 
before, according to County Administrative Officer Paul Hahn. 
Chico-area Supervisor Maureen Kirk noted it was still early in the season.

Measure A, which applies to unincorporated areas of the county, sets 
growing area sizes based on parcel size. Properties of a half-acre or 
less, may have an indoor growing area of up to 120 square feet.

Indoor or outdoor growing areas may be allowed for properties greater 
than a half-acre. They range from 50 square feet for parcels less 
than 5 acres to 150 square feet for lots 10 acres or larger.

Growers also face requirements such as having an occupied residence 
on the property and a permitted water source or connection.

Of the 74 current cases, 37 are considered inactive. Snellings said 
the county wouldn't close most cases like last season so a second 
violation could lead to a citation. He said some growers took 
advantage of the county closing cases early last year.

Snellings said county officials have held or scheduled 15 outreach 
meetings to get the word out about the measure.

He noted some people are rejecting inspection requests, leading 
officials to obtain warrants. The time for county officials to obtain 
the inspection warrants has dropped from 24 hours to 30 minutes or less.

Hahn said different county groups are meeting every other week to 
discuss what's happening in the field and what could be done better.

Snellings said officials are still seeing aggressive dogs during 
visits and Animal Control may be needed.

Ramsey said the state Department Fish and Wildlife and Department of 
Water Resources have formed an interdivision taskforce in response to 
Butte County's request to address grow pollution. He noted the task 
force started working in the Redding area.

Alpert updated supervisors about the Measure A lawsuit. Four medical 
marijuana patients have sued, saying the measure is unlawful and 
prevents them and some family members from obtaining sufficient 
cannabis to meet their needs.

He said some online posts indicated the county lost during a court 
hearing last week. There has been no ruling on the merits of the 
plaintiffs' lawsuit and the court denied a temporary restraining 
order to block the law, Alpert said.

Last week's hearing was to consider the county's effort to dismiss 
the case by demurrer. Alpert said the plaintiffs' original complaint 
was insufficient because it didn't specify any cause of action.

The judge determined the county's demurrer moot because the 
plaintiffs filed an amended complaint. Alpert said the county would 
seek a second demurrer next month.

The plaintiffs' attorney, Scot Candell of San Rafael, acknowledged in 
a phone interview that Butte County is allowed to enforce Measure A, 
but officials were stalling with the demurrer.

"They're not going to win the case on a demurrer," Candell said.

He said the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint because the causes 
of action were originally in footnotes and not in the main body.

With the temporary restraining order denied, he said the next step 
was to seek a preliminary injunction, which could be granted if a 
judge determines there is a significant likelihood of the plaintiffs 
prevailing. Because of the county's motions, Candell said that matter 
likely won't be considered until June or July - which is late in the 
outdoor growing season.

Candell said the county could set regulations, but the plaintiffs are 
claiming that the county did it wrong. He said the law was 
unconstitutional because some people are allowed to grow medicine and 
others aren't.

"They did a bad job and it violates people's rights," Candell said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom