Pubdate: Wed, 27 Jul 2016
Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Copyright: 2016 The Sacramento Bee
Author: Peter Hecht


Nevada City - Faced with furious protests by marijuana advocates, 
Nevada County supervisors on Tuesday approved a restrictive plan to 
allow limited outdoor marijuana growing in a Sierra Nevada county 
long known for its cannabis culture.

In June, voters in the county of 100,000 residents roundly rejected a 
sweeping ban imposed by supervisors on outdoor marijuana farms and 
commercial cultivation. Measure W, which would have reinforced an 
ordinance passed by the board in June, went down by a 59 to 41 percent margin.

After its defeat, cannabis advocates said they had expected the board 
to approve more liberal growing policies, including allowing 
regulated cannabis farms under new California medical marijuana rules 
signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year.

On Tuesday, they said the board's new plan to ban marijuana growing 
in residential areas and allow no more than 25 plants on large 
agricultural properties would deprive legitimate medical marijuana 
users of relief and do nothing to address concerns about rogue pot 
farms fouling the environment.

Local cannabis grower Song Kowbell said voters on Measure W had 
delivered a resounding answer to a question posed by supervisors on 
whether the county should ban both outdoor and commercial marijuana 
growing. Kowbell said the new rules, including property line setbacks 
for pot gardens, would prevent her from growing on her sprawling 
rural landscape.

"You asked and we said no!" she said about the board's response to 
Measure W vote. "I have a 17-acre parcel, which I can no longer grow 
my medicine on. I have Lyme disease and M.S. and I'm mad as hell."

Meanwhile, several dozen residents turned out to urge supervisors to 
stand firm against unbridled marijuana growing that they charged was 
imperiling the county's security.

Anthony Halby, a board member for the Nevada County County Law 
Enforcement and Fire Protection Council, blamed the failure of 
Measure W on spending by cannabis interests. He said that signaled 
the county was now corrupted by pot and that supervisors needed to 
take another stand to rein in a burgeoning marijuana culture.

"We moved here 30 years ago for the quality of life," Halby said. "I 
worry about these grows and all the things that drug money can buy."

Nevada County Board of Supervisors Chairman Dan Miller said the 
ordinance approved Tuesday is just temporary, a way to buy additional 
time for supervisors to draft permanent rules to address concerns of 
both cultivators and residents unhappy with marijuana proliferation 
in the county.

"It's not perfect," Miller said. "There is not going to be consensus. 
There is going to be a lot of angst. But when we get into the weeds 
of a permanent ordinance, then we'll know what to do or not do. We're 
trying to lift the ban and still respond to the community as a whole."

The new ordinance maintains a ban on indoor and outdoor cannabis 
growing on all residential properties under 5 acres and imposes 
requirements restricting the location and scale of gardens on larger 
properties. However, the Supervisors' 4-1 vote will allow people in 
residential areas to maintain current indoor gardens of up to 12 
plants for the next 90 days.

It allows residents on properties of 20 acres or more to grow 25 
outdoor marijuana plants with up to 1,000 square feet of plant 
canopy. Those with 10-acre to 20-acre parcels can maintain pot farms 
of 16 outdoor plants of no more than 800 square feet.

The county's plan, which maintains the supervisors' ban on commercial 
cultivation, allows people in residential areas to grow 12 indoor 
plants on parcels between 5 and 10 acres. It would permit 12 indoor 
plants or six outdoor plants on properties between 2 and 5 acres that 
lie in agricultural zones. Twelve indoor or outdoor plants are 
allowed on agricultural properties of 5 acres or more.

Marijuana advocates said $100 to $500 daily fines on violators of the 
cultivation rules are unfairly punitive. They said the rules - 
including 200-foot property line setback requirements for marijuana 
gardens - will effectively ban growing on some larger properties.

Patricia Smith, a former Hollywood costume designer who founded a 
local marijuana collective called Grass Roots Solutions, said the 
county policy was an affront to residents who rejected Measure W. 
Smith said the restrictions contained "poison pills" that would "take 
out 75 percent of every small mom and pop grower in this county.

"You're banning the most needy patients from being able to grow 
medicine," Smith said. "You're banning collectives from being able to 
grow for them. The political winds have shifted in Nevada County. I 
hope you change with the times."

She was echoed by Forrest Hurd, the father of a 9-year-old boy, Silas 
Hurd, who uses cannabis treatments for ward off severe seizures from 
a rare, intractable form of childhood epilepsy. Growers for Grass 
Roots Solutions are producing medicinal tinctures for the child.

Hurd accused the board of pushing policies that "sacrifice the lives 
of the disabled in this county for an ideological war on recreational 

Linda Erdmann of the Nevada County Republican Women's Federation said 
marijuana growing in the county is a purely for-profit business whose 
impacts are bringing "a gradual breakdown in law an order. ... Nevada 
County should not become one of the major marijuana growing areas in 

But Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers 
Association, warned that the county would wind up with unwanted 
criminal marijuana growers and traffickers if supervisors didn't 
impose thoughtful regulations to distinguish lawful cultivators from 
rogue elements.

"The fact of the matter is that commercial growing is already here," 
Allen told the board. "We want to regulate it. And we want to 
separate regulated grows from criminal grows. ... Regressive policies 
will not solve problems."

One local grower couldn't take the supervisors' proposed action. 
Shortly before the board vote, Andrew Goodwin stood up out of turn 
and rushed toward the dais where the board members were seated, 
stopping about 10 feet in front of them.

Goodwin, who said he grows marijuana for a personal medical 
condition, said he sank his money into a greenhouse only to give up 
in confusion and frustration over the county's rules for such structures.

"I have spent so much money in this county," said Goodwin, his voice 
cracking with emotion. "I've given up. I'm now growing tomatoes."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom