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March 26, 2013
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Compromise possible on Nevada County pot ordinance?


The Nevada County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved amendments to the Cannabis Cultivation Ordinance during its Tuesday regular meeting.

The amendment that generated the bulk of public comment related to the establishment of the right for collectives to grow marijuana for medicinal purposes on a property, owned as a primary residence by at least one of the collective members.

Jeff Lake, the attorney representing the Americans for Safe Access, Nevada County in its ongoing lawsuit against the county, said the amendment did not go far enough to protect the rights of those interested in growing medicine both collectively and individually.

“The number one most important issue is how do we get the patients an opportunity to collectively and individually cultivate enough medicine to meet their medical needs,” Lake said. “Right now, it’s just impossible.”

Lake said the impossibility is due to a section of the ordinance, Section G-IV 5.4 (G), which restricts the amount of plants one can grow according to the acre size of the parcel.

Patricia Smith, president of ASA, Nevada County, said since the county has restricted cultivation to agriculturally zoned parcels, the space-based limitations render the “acknowledgement of collectives an empty gesture at best.

“Surely these (agricultural) parcels can accommodate a large cultivation site without bothering their neighbors,” she said.

Lake said he would like the county to strike the square footage restrictions and instead implement a plant count model similar to that of Yuba County’s ordinance.

ASA has been advocating for mediation to reach compromise, Smith said. However, Lake described the majority of the board as “obstinate” on the mediation issue.

“I think there will be some other factors that may change their mind, for example, if they have to spend money in attorneys fees, their and our, or pay for quarter-million dollars or more for a special election that’s going to end up with an initiative that’s very similar to a reasonably negotiated ordinance,” Lake said.

Supervisor Terry Lamphier, who voted against the passage of the ordinance last May, said he believed the board should consider going back to mediation.

“We have an obligation to the voters of Nevada County, who voted for Proposition 215, and the taxpayers who are paying to have the ordinance enforced to take another look at this,” Lamphier said.

“If we could work out something and drop the lawsuit, I think this serves both the taxpayers and the voters.”

County Counsel Alison Barratt-Green said the board could only consider the amendments included in the staff report but said the board could revisit mediation at a later date.

Don Bessee, a member of Nevada County Residents Against the Cultivation of Cannabis, said he is not opposed to lifting some of the restrictions against cultivation in agricultural areas, as his organization has emphasized restrictions in residential areas.

Our position has been that way from the beginning,” Bessee said.

The meeting

About 50 members of the public attended the meeting, but most deferred public comment to the leaders of each respective side.

Along with the board of supervisors, District Attorney Cliff Newell, Sheriff Keith Royal, three uniformed Nevada County Sheriff’s Office deputies and what appeared to be two plain-clothes officers attended as well.

“I think your bigoted judgment is manifested by all these armed officers that appear when the subject becomes medical marijuana,” said a speaker from Penn Valley during the public comment period. “I’ve sat here before, and I’ve never seen so many officers.”

Royal said many people who attended the meeting last May became belligerent, and the extra staff was a “precautionary measure.”

“We actually thought we were going to have fights (in May),” he said. “It’s a protection for everyone.”

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

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The Union Updated Jan 16, 2014 05:14PM Published Mar 29, 2013 08:29AM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.