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The Mountain Messenger | Duelling ordinances say not much is settled


By: Nuke Brunswick, The Mountain Messenger

NEVADA CITY, Calif. December 13, 2013 - As Sierra County heads toward creating a marijuana ordinance a cautious eye should perhaps be cast upon Nevada County's efforts to regulate the herb for medical purposes. County ordinance 2349 became law in early 2012. It's now facing a 2014 challenge from the medical marijuana community.

The Medical Marijuana Cultivation Measure sponsored by the Nevada County branch of Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is a thousand signatures away from the June primary ballot and those names are expected to be on paper before Christmas. If approved by voters the patient-driven initiative would replace the county's version, written by the sheriff's department.

"The way the county wrote their ordinance made it almost impossible to stay in compliance," said Nevada County ASA board chair Patricia Smith. "They changed the rules. The state tells us we can have a minimum of six plants per patient," she added, referring to Proposition 215, California's Compassionate Use Act of 1966. "They threw that out and replaced it with square foot restrictions that don't allow for six plants per patient." The county's existing ordinance allows an indoor grow covering 100 square feet. ASA's proposed ordinance would allow a growing area of 200 square feet.

"We live in hill country and the county ordinance states that you can only grow on a single, flat, level plain. That's almost impossible to do and it also prohibits you from terracing. It has to be naturally level." Smith believes that provision is strongly anti-legal growing. "Clearly, it was written just to keep people from being able to grow."

Another county growing regulation says a grow cannot be within a thousand feet of a school bus stop. "According to the bus company, that takes out ninety percent of the properties in this county," Smith said. "That's not a state regulation; that's something they dreamed up themselves." She called it an unnecessary provision. ASA's proposed ordinance would reduce the necessary distance to 600 feet.

When told of impending action to regulate marijuana in Sierra County Smith expressed concern. "A recent court ruling says counties and cities can ban indoor and outdoor cultivation entirely. 200 cities have enacted bans," she added. "So, we're expecting this to spread like poison oak." Her hopes are that Sierra County's supervisors will create a reasonable ordinance that allows adequate medicinal grows, instead of enacting a ban.

Once the ASA sponsored ordinance qualifies for a spot on the ballot Smith said her group plans to speak to as many different groups and organizations as possible, campaigning for passage. ASA's primary role, Smith said, is insuring safe access for patients.

While enforcement of the new ordinance is not part of ASA's plan, Smith disagrees with much that is being done and said in connection with the current county ordinance.

In an earlier interview Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal told The Messenger, speaking of legal, medical grows, "...if we don't get called we leave ‘em alone."

"Not. At. All! The opposite is true," Smith said. "I know that's what he says, but that's not the case. We've had people that had four plants that have gotten abated. But we see people with hundreds that haven't been cited. He keeps maintaining that they only go after the most egregious violators but we've had cases where they start at one end of a block and go door to door not knowing whether the residents are growing marijuana or not.

"All of the police objections to ending prohibition are to protect their own turfs," Smith added, "and their financing and funding from the federal government. That is their primary objection; not the safety or health and well being of the citizens."

Smith had one final word of caution for those who would create medical marijuana outlets in Sierra County. "Some commercial growers have threatened my life. They want me run out of town because they don't want medical marijuana. They want to keep everything illegal and pricey."

Editor's note: The Mountain Messenger, California's oldest weekly newspaper since 1853, is published on Thursdays from Downieville, California.

The Mountain Messenger can be purchased for half a buck at the National Hotel (sidewalk), Nevada City Post Office (sidewalk), Nevada City SPD (outside) and Nevada City Express Mart (outside.)


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