NORTH SAN JUAN, Calif. February 2, 2016 – A town hall meeting was called by North San Juan residents to hear directly from their county supervisor, Hank Weston, on the current outdoor marijuana growing ban and the proposed ballot measure. The standing-room only meeting yesterday went into overtime but concrete answers were few and far in between.

After the Nevada County BOS’ 4-1 vote to ban all outdoor growing of marijuana on January 12th and the unclear ballot language, clarifying language is to be considered by the BOS at their Feb. 9th meeting. Ahead of the new vote, North San Juan residents had questions for their representative.

Weston started by providing an update on District 4 matters, after the evening’s moderator, Song Kowbell, got consensus from the audience to deviate from the agenda the community had set.

No major projects are scheduled for North San Juan proper and there are no plans to bring back public transportation to the community, but some new signage and striping on Hwy 49 is planned.

Weston became slightly defensive when he pointed out nobody from North San Juan is sitting on county commissions or advisory boards, then announced the possible creation of two Municipal Advisory Committees (MAC) in District 4.

Getting to the main issue of the meeting, residents asked Weston why the economic impact of the ban is not even considered. Weston dismissed the $440 million/year figure cited by many, stating that the sales tax numbers simply don’t support it.

Asked why Sheriff Royal is able to use aerial photography to identify large grows and yet the grows are still active, Weston replied: “We have no control, other than his budget. It’s his decision, how they [elected officials] run their shop.”

He admitted the ban will not prevent large grows, or deter many people from planting outside. “If you grow outside and your neighbors don’t complain, nothing’s going to happen.” He was taken to task for that comment by the evening’s moderator and members of the audience. “You voted to ban outdoor growing and now you’re telling us if nobody complains, it’s OK? That’s entrapment Hank.”

Several speakers implored Weston to reconsider the total ban, citing their need for medical marijuana. “I don’t want to be a criminal, I just want to be able to grow my medicine,” sums up the concerns of many.

Weston stated many growers have been breaking the law for years and will continue to do so, with or without the urgency ordinance. He and other supervisors have been receiving complaints for years from people wanting a ban, the BOS acted on the matter.

However, the question will be on the June ballot and he is prepared to act according to the wishes of the voters.

Should the ballot measure fail, the BOS will repeal the outdoor growing ban and come up with new regulations. This would happen after the election results are certified, by mid-July, Weston said.

He declined to tell the audience how he feels about the upcoming vote. Weston stated supervisors are not supposed to announce their positions ahead of time, “If I say publicly how I might vote, then somebody from the other side could ask me to recuse myself.”

With the March 1st deadline for local agencies to formulate their rules regarding marijuana cultivation gone, residents asked Weston to slow the process down and not rush to a total ban.

Several speakers asked why a stakeholder group could not be formed and try to bridge the divide between growers and proponents of the ban. Pointing to the failure of the first stakeholder group, Weston was not keen on repeating the experience. Patricia Smith, a member of that original group, stated they had been able to achieve consensus but their efforts were disregarded by the Sheriff.

Pat Browning, a supporter of the ban and long-time rancher on the Ridge, said he was sick and tired of seeing and smelling huge grows right along his property. But, he also said that patients should be able to grow their medicine and asked how many plants it takes for a patient to have enough. Everyone in the room agreed large grows are the real problem and should be abated.

Asked why the Sheriff is not taking action on known large commercial grows, Weston replied that he asked that same question.

The ban will create a further economic divide between people able to afford the separate indoor growing building, comply with all county permits and those who will be forced to either “drive down the hill” to buy their medicine or break the law, according to several speakers.

Speaking to the economics of possible legalization of recreational marijuana by voters in November, Weston said the state would have two years to come up with rules and he hasn’t seen how much of the tax on marijuana would come back to the county. He is concerned 80% of Nevada County marijuana is already leaving the county, saying he got that figure from talking with many growers over the years.

Asked what would happen once marijuana is legalized and huge commercial grows will be planted by large businesses in the valley and how this would impact Nevada County, Weston reiterated he doesn’t want large grows in Nevada County.

He invited everyone to come to the BOS meeting and repeat their concerns to his colleagues, stating he was the only one who has had a town hall regarding the issue. He was reminded gently that the community called the meeting.

The very passionate appeals to see his constituents as people and patients did not appear to sway Weston who kept reiterating that the BOS holds no sway over the Sheriff.

The overwhelming majority of attendees want to work collaboratively with the county and supporters of the ban to reach a compromise between patient rights and property rights on both sides of the issue instead of a blanket prohibition.

The evening ended with a round of applause for Hank Weston, for showing up.

The Take Away

The outdoor growing ban, contained in the urgency ordinance, is in place now and will remain in place at least until the results of the June election are certified by the Elections Office – 30 days after the June 7th election.

If the ballot measure fails, the BOS will remove the outdoor growing ban at their July meeting, according to Weston.

Weston voted for the ban “knowing all along the voters will have their say,” notwithstanding the current ballot language.

The abatement measures and fines, adopted in the original urgency ordinance remain in place. This includes a provision of $500/day fine per infraction – this provision has not been used by the Sheriff as of now, only the appeals process and subsequent abatement by either the landowner or the county have taken place.

The urgency ordinance remains complaint-driven, for now.

The Nevada County BOS will vote on the clarifying language for the ballot measure on Tuesday, February 9th at 1:30 pm. Public testimony will be taken at the meeting.

The agenda for the Feb. 9th meeting, including the proposed clarifying language, will be available on Thursday afternoon.