Matthew Renda

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May 11, 2012
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Sheriff on marijuana ordinance: 'We're not going to be extremists'

Nevada County's top law enforcement official said his agency will focus on education in the immediate weeks following the approval of the controversial medical marijuana ordinance.

Sheriff Keith Royal said he and his officers will use discretion when enforcing the newly enacted ordinance that was passed by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

"This is a nuisance abatement ordinance and that's really our focus," Royal said. "Our goal is that the complaints go away."

Royal said he has received a large number of complaints during summer months from people complaining about the noise, smell, traffic and potential for crime emanating from marijuana grow operations throughout the county.

Royal said while the ordinance gives people who were detrimentally impacted by nearby grow operations some relief, he recognizes that even proponents of the ordinance will have to recognize that growing marijuana for medical use is legal in California.

"Just because a neighbor calls us up and complains about the smell of plants, does not mean our office will immediately abate them," Royal said.

"There has to be some give and take on this ordinance and we are trying to establish a reasonable standard. If there is someone slightly out of compliance, we are going to work with them, but we'll need cooperation from both sides."

Royal said there will be a formal process for inspecting grow operations. If the sheriff's office receives a complaint, it would consult with county counsel before attempting to contact the owner of the grow.

"We are not going to be knocking down doors," Royal said.

The sheriff further said if while visiting the site of a grow there was a commercial operation that was absent of medical recommendations, his agency could potentially pursue a criminal process.

"We will not be focusing on that," he said.

Royal said he was aware of simmering outrage in the medical marijuana community, but believes the county as a whole will benefit from the ordinance.

"I'm pleased we're taking steps in the right direction," Royal said. "This is a difficult issue to deal with but we are moving in the right direction."

President of the Nevada County Chapter of Americans for Safe Access Patricia Smith said the worst part of the ordinance is how it represents a de facto ban on collectives.

Often, a patient who is too elderly, too sick or lacks the experience to grow marijuana for themselves will enlist a caregiver to cultivate cannabis for them. In many instances, collectives have cropped up that band together many different patients under one organization.

Smith said square-footage limitations as stated in the ordinance fundamentally restricts collectives' ability to serve their patients.

"They're using nuisance as a vehicle to ban collectives," she said. "They're hurting the very people (that Proposition 215 was supposed to serve.)"

Smith said the anti-ordinance crowd is further opposed to the primary residence requirement, the bus stop provision, the lack of requirement for a warrant to enter a private premises and the requirement to have a notarized letter from a landlord.

"No landlord is going to do that," Smith said, saying it makes them legally culpable.

One grower who contacted The Union, but did not wish to be identified, said he would comply with every element of the ordinance except for the provision that required written permission from the landlord.

Smith said her side is preparing a lawsuit and will attempt to pursue a voter initiative that essentially attempts to secure enough votes to replace the new ordinance with a different version.

Smith said ASA was one of the first organizations to ask for an ordinance, but they were hoping for regulations that respected patients' rights.

"We asked for some clear guidelines," Smith said, adding that while recourse was being pursued growers should "stay within guidelines as best they can and err on the side of caution."

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

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The Union Updated May 11, 2012 08:04PM Published May 11, 2012 08:01PM Copyright 2012 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.