Pubdate: Mon, 11 May 2015
Source: Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, CA)
Copyright: 2015 Appeal-Democrat
Author: Eric Vodden


Now that Yuba County's marijuana cultivation ordinance - at least for 
now - has moved from public hearings to the courtroom, its fate will 
rest more on judges than county supervisors.

There still is a possible third front in the opponents' fight - that 
being voting booths. The process has already started for a would-be 
recall election against Supervisor Andy Vasquez, there have been 
threats against others and opponents still have the option of trying 
to place an initiative on the ballot.

But the complaint-driven ordinance that bans outdoor growing and 
limits indoor plants to a dozen in an accessory structure is in place.

"We are enforcing the ordinance and have people in the field," said 
Jeremy Strang, Yuba County's chief code enforcement officer. "We have 
about 30 cases already, and we are getting more of them daily."

The county is also now accepting the annual $441 growers registration 
fee to help raise enforcement funds. Strang acknowledged nobody has 
yet paid any such fees, though he said they will likely come in as 
building permits for accessory structures are processed.

"We have done a lot of education," Strang said. "A lot of people are calling."

The new ordinance took effect immediately after supervisors approved 
it on March 10 with an urgency designation that took away the 
possibility of a voter referendum. That came amid a series of 
sometimes raucous workshops and hearings dominated by opponents.

"The majority of medical marijuana patients are good neighbors, love 
their community and are upstanding citizens," said Eric Salerno of 
Yuba Patients Coalition. "Then you have a smaller dynamic of 
individuals who have come into our county and intend on abusing the system.

"The enforcement of the ordinance was meant to deal with those 
situations. In this case, the county never gave code enforcement the 
tools and manpower it needed to adequately respond and deal with 
those abuses. This has compounded over time."

Buck Weckman of Families Against Cannabis Trafficking said the 
previous ordinance attracted growers forced out of other areas by 
stricter regulations. The old regulation allowed 18 outdoor plants on 
an acre or less and as many as 99 on 20 acres or more.

"I think when the Compassionate Use Act was enacted, what the voters 
expected was a few people with a genuine medical need would be 
growing just enough to help them," Weckman said. "What they got was a 
smokescreen for commercial marijuana trafficking.

"They were in it for the money and along with that came crime, 
environmental damage and neighbors who were no longer friends and 
producers in our community."

Once approved, the new ordinance prompted court actions challenging 
the legality of the urgency designation and the constitutionality of 
the ordinance itself. What has resulted so far is a series of rulings 
and appeals that so far have mostly favored the county.

But a Yuba County Superior Court hearing scheduled June 1 will be the 
first to get into the meat of the lawsuit filed by Yuba Patients 
Coalition and six individuals. Among other things, it maintains the 
new ordinance is unconstitutionally cost-prohibitive for most patients.

It says the ordinance "deprives poor qualified medical marijuana 
patients of the ability to cultivate the medicine they need, in 
accordance with state law, because they are unable to afford to pay 
for the accessory structure ..." The ordinance requires such 
structures be permitted, have electrical service and contain odor 
filtration and ventilation systems.

So why not just allow patients to have a small number of outdoor 
plants for their own use on their properties?

"The individual that needs it as a recommended medical alternative, 
we have accommodated that," Supervisor John Nicoletti said. "They can 
grow the 12 plants."

But he said the board was forced to take "corrective action" because 
of an "overreaction" on the part of growers.

"I am not opposed to a small number outdoors, but I feel like we 
needed to send a message that we are not going to allow plants 
outdoors," Nicoletti said. "The growers aren't willing to accept just 
six plants outdoors. They want to grow 60."
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