Pubdate: Sat, 09 May 2015
Source: Record, The (Stockton, CA)
Copyright: 2015 The Record
Author: Joe Goldeen


STOCKTON - On Thursday, a new ordinance will take effect that clearly 
prohibits all cultivation of marijuana for any purpose including 
medical in the unincorporated areas of San Joaquin County.

Possession, within the constraints of state law, will still be 
allowed. Cultivation within the city limits of Stockton and the 
county's other cities is subject to the rules of those cities. 
Pockets of Stockton that are unincorporated and patrolled by the 
Sheriff's Office are affected by the new ordinance.

Violation of the new county ordinance is a misdemeanor punishable by 
a fine of not more than $500, imprisonment in the County Jail up to 
six months, or an alternative sentence.

"Each day illegal medical marijuana cultivation continues shall 
constitute a separate violation and be subject to the maximum penalty 
and any other enforcement remedies available to the county," 
according to the ordinance officially logged in as Title 4 (Public 
Safety), Division 10 (Medical Marijuana), Chapter 1 (Medical 
Marijuana Cultivation).

Sheriff's Capt. Bruce Wuest, who heads the Metro Narcotics Task Force 
and was instrumental in drafting the new ordinance over the past two 
years, said the new rule helps his deputies deal with the realities 
of what they see on a regular basis.

"The state rules allow room for fudging, but we are not dealing with 
very many people at all that are in compliance with what the state 
allows. It is usually in excess of that amount," Wuest said, 
referring to the state law that allows a medical marijuana patient or 
primary caregiver to have no more than six mature or 12 immature 
marijuana plants per qualified patient.

When they made their presentation to the Board of Supervisors last 
month, Wuest and his boss, Sheriff Steve Moore, said that excessive, 
illegal marijuana cultivation by individuals and collectives around 
the county was experiencing a boom "in part because of the lack of 
local regulation."

They noted that illicit nonmedical marijuana plants discovered and 
eradicated by deputies soared to 100,000 plants in 2014 from 31,000 
plants in 2011 . In 2013, the Sheriff's Office destroyed a record 
138,519 illegal plants in the county.

And the crime associated with marijuana cultivation also has grown. 
Between 2008 and 2014, there was an average of one homicide per year 
related to marijuana grows in unincorporated county areas. And just 
last year, a deputy sheriff was shot at while investigating an 
outdoor marijuana grow.

Wuest said patrol deputies are not going to be ordered to 
specifically root out small marijuana grows, but if they come across 
them in the course of their duties, the new law gives them the 
authority to take action.

"It's complaint driven. Now when we respond to that complaint, the 
ordinance allows us another tool. If a patrol deputy is out on a call 
for service talking to a neighbor and sees into a guy's backyard, the 
officer can address it at that point," Wuest said.

The county's top narcotics officer made it clear that while all 
cultivation will be illegal starting Thursday, "possession is legal 
as long as they have the medical recommendation."

Wuest added, however, that the number of California Medical Marijuana 
Identification Cards in San Joaquin County "is very low."

Wuest and Moore made a strong case to the supervisors about the 
county's right to enact a total cultivation ban as allowed by the 
California Constitution with the stated purpose "to preserve the 
public peace, health, safety and general welfare" of county 
residents. The board unanimously adopted the ordinance.

As clear as the county has been about its intent, questions remain 
for many people who use, grow or sell marijuana for medical purposes, 
especially low-income disabled patients.

Of those interviewed for this story, none wanted to be identified out 
of concern for their personal safety and the concern that they might 
be violating the law.

Most wanted to know how they would be able to get the medical 
marijuana they require. For many, it's unaffordable. For others, 
transportation to get to a dispensary is an issue.

According to, there are up to three dozen marijuana 
dispensaries in and around San Joaquin County. While most only 
provide delivery services in a specified area, there are four 
standalone shops - all within the city of Stockton - that provide a 
variety of cannabis products.

Employees and operators of those shops - most of whom asked for 
anonymity for themselves and their businesses out of concern for 
their personal safety and the security and confidentiality of their 
patients - for the most part objected to the new ordinance because of 
its restrictions what they view as personal freedom.

"This law's not fair. People who want to grow their own medicine 
should be allowed to grow their own medicine," one shop employee 
said. "To me, you would want it growing out in the unincorporated 
areas where it doesn't bother anybody."

The proprietor of a nonprofit collective in Stockton - a strong 
advocate for marijuana's medicinal effects - acknowledged that the 
cultivation ban in the county would be good for his business.

"You'd be surprised how many people are out there," he said.

Wuest said he understood the needs of patients in the county and said 
cannabis products are still accessible to them.

"People do have access to marijuana, but they have to get it a 
different way," he said. The Sheriff's Office, he said, is "really 
trying to help the community by providing a better community for everyone."

Anyone with questions about the new county ordinance may call Wuest 
at (209) 953-1105.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom