Pubdate: Thu, 10 Mar 2016
Source: Chico News & Review, The (CA)
Copyright: 2016 Chico Community Publishing, Inc.
Author: Ken Smith


Protested Pot Ordinances Bound for the Ballot

The Butte County Board of Supervisors struggled to maintain control 
during the public comment period at its regular meeting Tuesday 
(March 8), directing speakers to stick to the topic of two specific 
medical marijuana cultivation ordinances and making repeated pleas 
for civility from rambunctious audience members on both sides of the issue.

The meeting teetered on the edge of chaos as soon as the discussion 
started and reached its peak about halfway through roughly two hours 
of public commentary, as speaker JR Thiara used his turn at the 
podium to sermonize for medical marijuana long past his allotted two minutes.

"And God said, 'Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, 
which is upon the face of all the Earth, and every tree, in which is 
the fruit of a tree yielding ...'" Thiara said, making it through 
several verses of Genesis as a medi-pot opponent in the audience 
started shouting, "[The Bible] says don't get drunk, too ... it says 
don't get high!"

Proponents shared stories of how medical marijuana saved their lives, 
while anti-pot speakers described how their neighborhoods were ruined 
by the smell of pot. Many expressed their support or disdain for 
Measure A, the medical marijuana cultivation ordinance adopted by 
Butte County voters in November 2014. But as board Chairman Bill 
Connelly said several times, the only issues up for discussion were 
two ordinances adopted by the board in January and protested by 
petition in February.

Ordinance No. 4106 changed the county's Right to Farm ordinance to 
specify that medical marijuana cultivation is not an agricultural 
operation, and therefore not subject to the same rules that govern 
other farming ventures. New state regulations classify medical 
marijuana as an agricultural commodity, and the ordinance was aimed 
at reducing future legal challenges if existing ag regulations do not 
line up with Measure A rules. The second ordinance, No. 4107, amended 
Measure A to streamline the enforcement process, doing away with 
citations to base fines solely on 72-hour notices given to those 
believed to be out of compliance with cultivation rules.

Both ordinances were passed at the supervisors' meeting Jan. 12 and 
adopted Jan. 26. They would have taken effect Feb. 25, but a group 
called the Inland Cannabis Farmers' Association spearheaded an effort 
to collect more than 12,000 signatures protesting their adoption. 
Butte County Clerk-Recorder Candace Grubbs certified the petitions 
were valid at Tuesday's meeting.

The supervisors had two options Tuesday-repeal the ordinances 
outright or put them to the voters. They further had to decide 
whether to add the ordinances to the next scheduled election (the 
June 7 primary) or hold a special election. They eventually voted 4-1 
(with Supervisor Doug Teeter dissenting) to let voters decide about 
the Right to Farm amendment, and unanimously to let the public decide 
on the Measure A amendment. Both ordinances will be on the primary ballot.

Paul Hahn, chief administrative officer for the county, said that 
since the primary ballot is already filled with local issues 
including an anti-fracking ordinance, the cost of adding the two 
measures would be minor, amounting to a few thousand dollars at most.

Jessica MacKenzie, director of the Inland Cannabis Farmers' 
Association, said she was mostly happy with the outcome: "I think 
there was movement made on both sides and we had some good dialogue," 
she said, acknowledging things got rowdy but noting her group helped 
keep the conversation mostly cordial.

"I'm disappointed they didn't repeal 4106, because it's completely 
unnecessary ... and that they didn't look at the totality of 
enforcement when discussing 4107, because complaints have been filed 
and abuses have been noted," she said. "But June is just around the corner."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom