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May 8, 2012
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Pot ordinance approved: 4-1 vote means county cultivation ordinance is law of the land


Order broke down and angry outbursts cascaded moments after the Nevada County Board of Supervisors approved a medical marijuana ordinance Tuesday that placed limitations on grow operations in the county.

The board approved both an urgency ordinance that took effect immediately and a regular ordinance, which necessitates additional public hearings.

On both issues the vote was 4 to 1, with Supervisor Terry Lamphier dissenting.

As soon as the first vote was announced, members of the crowd stood up from their chairs and began yelling at the board.

"This isn't fair," one shouted. And "You didn't listen," another followed.

One unidentified member of the crowd confronted Sheriff Keith Royal and accused him of taking jobs and money away from residents, before being escorted by officers from the chambers.

Order was restored for a moment, before a crowd of people rushed into the chamber chanting "Vote them out! ... Vote them out!"

"Obviously, not everybody is happy," said District 2 Supervisor Ed Scofield, who made the motion to approve the urgency ordinance. The majority of ordinance supporter speaking Tuesday were from Scofield's south county district. "But we had to get something on the ground."

Lamphier said he supported an marijuana ordinance, but not the one approved by his fellow supervisors, saying it was hastily put together and a few more details needed to be ironed out before it was passed.

"There was a lot of confusion, a lot of misunderstanding," Lamphier said, adding he expected the county to be sued and to incur a lengthy and expensive legal battle.

When asked if a lawsuit was imminent, president of the Nevada County Chapter of Americans for Safe Access Patricia Smith said:

"Absolutely, I expect to file suit like tomorrow."

"If I'd had my druthers, we would have gone back to the table to work out these last issues and concerns," she continued. "The passing of the urgency ordinance really limits the voice of the voters as there can be no referendum (or other avenues of recourse)."

Don Bessee, a member of the Nevada County Residents Against the Cultivation of Cannabis, expressed satisfaction with the ordinance as passed and said there was always room for refinement going forward.

"I think the fact that there was dissatisfaction from both directions indicates the board achieved some middle ground," Bessee said.

"I think it was important we had something in place for this (grow) season."

Supervisor Nate Beason also said there is room for modification and said he believed the Nevada County Sheriff's Office would not be overly punitive at the beginning.

"I think the Sheriff's Office recognizes that this ordinance is new and there needs to be time for education and training," Beason said.

Royal said the Sheriff's Office would only be concerned with extreme cases.

The principal contention of many in the grow community is that the ordinance regulated operations according to square footage instead of number of plants, which resulted in a de facto ban for some residents and especially for collective operations, where multiple people grow at one spot.

Other members of the grower community, along with Lamphier, pointed out that the setbacks relevant to bus stops could make compliance difficult.

Lamphier estimated there were about 1,500 bus stops in the community.

Smith also said she was opposed to the requirement that renters obtain and post written permission from landlords, saying it violated constitutional rights and was "pointless."

Before passage, Supervisor Hank Weston did recommend an increase to the amount of square footage for parcels, but the anti-ordinance crowd was not appeased as evidenced by the tumult that followed the vote.

"I'm embarrassed to death," Smith said of the reaction.

Smith personally apologized to the supervisors after the meeting concluded and chastised some members of the crowd during an informal congregation outside the administration center.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email mrenda@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4239.


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The Union Updated May 9, 2012 12:42PM Published May 8, 2012 09:38PM Copyright 2012 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.