Pubdate: Thu, 24 Mar 2016
Source: Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, CA)
Copyright: 2016 Appeal-Democrat
Author: Andrew Creasey


Before a packed chamber hall, with strong opinions voiced from both 
sides of the issue, the Sutter County Board of Supervisors passed an 
updated urgency ordinance that significantly tightened the 
restrictions on medical marijuana cultivation.

The ordinance, which passed unanimously, bans all outdoor cultivation 
and limits any marijuana gardens to as many plants as the grower can 
fit in an 80-square-foot detached greenhouse.

Medical marijuana cultivation has been a dominant issue in both 
counties, creating lively meetings on both sides of the river. 
Tuesday's meeting in Sutter County was no different.

The board heard the usual arguments from advocates and opponents. 
They heard accounts of marijuana's medical use, from the commonplace 
- - as an alternative to addictive opiate pain medications - to the 
fantastic - one man claimed cannabis held the key to cure cancer.

"Ten years ago, I could barely walk. Medical marijuana helps me," 
said William Lyle, who walked to the podium with no assistance. "It 
takes 12 plants to get me through the year. I can't fit 12 plants in 
that greenhouse."

They heard the ordinance is too expensive for many medical marijuana 
patients, and that enforcing it would be a burden on taxpayers. The 
ordinance introduced a new annual registration fee of $140, not 
included in the previous ordinance, and requires a separate 
greenhouse for legal cultivation. The greenhouse is subject to an 
inspection at a cost of $180.

William Vanasek, the assistant county counsel who presented the 
ordinance to the board, estimated a greenhouse would cost between 
$600 and $1,000.

"The staff report said something that terrified me. It said the 
indirect costs related to enforcement of the ordinance is unknown. 
That is terrifying," said Jeffrey Lake, a lawyer specializing in 
medical marijuana law and land use. "If you don't know what it will 
cost, you shouldn't change the status quo. Where will the money come from?"

On the other side, the board heard from residents who were concerned 
that large, outdoor grows attract crime.

"I've seen changes in neighborhoods where big outdoor grows are 
started," said Arlyn Smith, who owns a cattle ranch in the Sutter 
Buttes. "The people going up and down the street are not nice people. 
It's very frightening."

Others talked about the public health and safety dangers of marijuana grows.

"You look at the grows going on in the south county, and it's a 
mess," said John Cooper. "You have power cords running on the ground, 
you have water, sewer and chemicals dumped on the ground  you have no 
regulation on these growing operations."

In the end, the board seemed in agreement that large commercial grows 
were harmful to the county and needed to be eliminated.

Most also said they supported the use of medical marijuana for 
legitimate aliments.

The board passed the action as an urgency ordinance, which means it 
will go into effect immediately.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom