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April 22, 2014
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Revised medical marijuana ordinance set for Nevada County ballot

Despite numerous pleas Tuesday to the contrary, Nevada County’s current medical marijuana cultivation ordinance will stand in place at least until fall, when a replacement ordinance will go before voters on the November general elections ballot.

“Where are the other 85 percent of county voters on this?” said Nevada County Supervisor Chair Nate Beason, referring to those who didn’t sign an initiative petition supporting the new ordinance. “The only way to settle it is to put it on the ballot.”

Initiative backers, who have qualified a new revised cultivation ordinance for the ballot by gathering more than 9,000 signatures, had wanted the county board to approve the revision immediately.

But, after a two-hour hearing that included testimony from about two dozen speakers, the county board voted 5 to 0 to wait for the November ballot instead, at a cost to the county of $72,000. If they had adopted it immediately, there would be no cost. Holding a special election with just the medical marijuana proposal on it would cost $300,000.

Initiative backers were not happy.

“I think they got a clear message that the current ordinance is not what we need,” said Harry Bennett of Nevada City, a medical marijuana activist. “I think they will be blown out in November — it will be a waste of the $72,000.”

Bennett was one of the estimated 250 people in the packed supervisors’ hearing room Tuesday. Many of those present said that the current ordinance guidelines were too confusing to follow and did not allow the option for growing enough of the highly therapeutic, CBD-rich strain of medical marijuana

Numerous speakers said that CBD-rich marijuana was the only thing that calmed nerve pain, cancer side effects and symptoms of Lyme disease, osteoporosis and numerous other ailments.

“It has so many poison pills,” said Patricia Smith, head of initiative sponsors Americans for Safe Access-Nevada County, of the current ordinance. “It’s like having a guillotine poised on your head, not knowing when the lever would fall.”

Several speakers disagreed, saying the current ordinance was working as planned to quell the “nuisance” aspects of having medical marijuana growers in the community.

“I am a resident of Alta Sierra and can report that things are much better in our community since the ordinance was passed,” said Leland French, president of the Alta Sierra homeowners association.

“It is working and the residents are experiencing an improved quality of life because of it.”

Supervisors split 3 to 2 on whether they would consider supporting a moratorium on enforcing the current ordinance until the November ballot.

Supervisors Terry Lamphier and Richard Anderson said they would like to see a resolution for a moratorium on an upcoming agenda but were voted down by Supervisors Beason, Ed Scofield and Hank Weston.

“This is a different crowd here today than when the ordinance was first adopted (in 2012),” Scofield said, referring to a contentious seven-hour public hearing that included many people upset by medical marijuana grows.“That tells me that the ordinance is working.

“Maybe the ordinance is too tough,” Scofield added. “But now, we’ve walked into a corner where we need to put this out on the ballot.”

Initiative backers said that with this year’s marijuana growing cycle starting now, it was upsetting to anticipate another year of what they said was an unfair ordinance.

Smith said the current regulations are unclear and confusing for the average mom-and-pop growers who are trying to stay within legal limits.

For example, she said, there is a provision that outlaws growing near school bus stops, but Smith said she has been unable to get a list of active bus stops and that it appeared the county was including both active and inactive bus stops.

“All we want is some small framework that we can actually legally follow,” Smith added. “Not one person can follow this ordinance because in every provision there is some way they can get you.”

She said the current ordinance was “absolutely targeting the wrong people” and that the county should be putting its enforcement efforts into wiping out the illegal trespass growers who destroy the countryside.

The new proposal, like the current ordinance, bans outdoor growing in residential areas, Smith said.

The main change in the proposed law is that it sets limits based on number of patients, rather than square footage, as in the current ordinance.

Under the new proposal, each medical marijuana patient would be allowed six plants, up to a maximum of 10 patients — or 60 plants — for a 30-acre plot.

Jeff Lake, a candidate for Nevada County Superior Court judge, said the county should support “clearer laws that are easier to follow,” adding that he was speaking as a private citizen.

“Clearer laws free up enforcement time by police, so that everyone can have better guidance and a better quality of life.”

To contact Staff Writer Keri Brenner, email kbrenner@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.

“I think they got a clear message that the current ordinance is not what we need. I think they will be blown out in November — it will be a waste of the $72,000.”
Harry Bennett
a medical marijuana activist


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The Union Updated Apr 25, 2014 12:54PM Published Apr 25, 2014 08:54PM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.