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August 19, 2014
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Strong arguments floated pro, con on Nevada County's Measure S

Nevada County voters will decide Nov. 4 between two radically opposing viewpoints of Measure S, a proposed revision to the county’s existing medical marijuana cultivation ordinance.

Which is right? The arguments are so diametrically opposite that thoughtful voters likely will want to take a careful review and comparison of provisions in each.

The “Yes on S” campaign, which recently opened an office at Merry Jane, 434 Colfax Ave., Grass Valley, contends that its new “Safe Cultivation Act of Nevada County” corrects the flaws of the existing Nevada County Cultivation Ordinance.

Patricia Smith, chair of “Yes on S” and a leader of Americans for Safe Access-Nevada County, maintains that the existing ordinance is intentionally impossible to follow for people who want to comply and be legitimate growers of medical marijuana and who want to be considerate of neighbors.

“Measure S solves these flaws with sensible solutions by: banning outdoor cultivation on residential parcels under 2 acres; requiring that any garden visible from ground level be confined behind a solid fence with a locked gate; allowing terraced hillside gardens; and removing outdated, abandoned bus restrictions,” the ballot argument in favor of Measure S says.

Smith said the two main examples of impossible-to-meet requirements in the existing ordinance are those calling for a completely level and flat growing areas and the use of abandoned school bus stop locations for setbacks. Both of those are corrected in the proposed revision.

But the county’s argument, signed by four of five members of the board of supervisors, Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal and Ariel Lovett, director of the Coalition for a Drug-Free Nevada County, has a different view. Supervisor Terry Lamphier did not sign, while supervisors Nate Beason, Ed Scofield, Richard Anderson and Hank Weston did.

“Measure S dramatically changes regulations regarding size, location and manner in which marijuana may be cultivated and removes important neighborhood protections from nuisances associated with larger marijuana grows, including: odors, noise, dust, traffic, glare and hazardous materials,” the county’s argument says.

Measure S also, the county argues, “removes fencing, height and security requirements that reduce criminal activity, exposures to children and neighborhood intimidation.”

The view of enforcement is also different between the two arguments.

If you read the “Yes on S” argument, “adopting Measure S will clarify and standardize guidelines for qualified medical marijuana growers while supporting law enforcement efforts to abate the growers who are breaking the law.

“Measure S addresses private property use in a reasonable way and allows the sheriff’s department to focus where the problems really exist (on public lands,” the “Yes on S” ballot argument says.

Strongly disagreeing with that statement is Nevada County’s ballot argument against Measure S, which reads: “Those of us who live in residential neighborhoods and on agricultural properties have a right to expect protection from nuisance and public safety issues associated with marijuana cultivation.” The county’s opposing ballot argument continues. “Measure S removes that protection and returns Nevada County to a time when law enforcement lacked tools to protect us against nuisance growers.”

Comparison from “Yes on S”

According to the argument released by the “Yes on S” campaign, the primary difference of Measure S is that every patient is limited to six plants each and is capped at 60 mature plants on 30-acre parcels for collectives who grow for people who are unable to grow for themselves.

“The county’s ordinance does not have any plant limits,” the argument says. Each patient receiving the six plants must have a doctor’s recommendation for medical marijuana.

According to a comparison released by “Yes on S,” here are the revisions being proposed:


Existing — A solid 6-foot (not to exceed 8 feet) fence with a locking gate is required around every garden regardless if the grow is visible from the public right-of-way. The fence may not be constructed of tarps, plastic, bamboo, etc.

Proposed — A 6-foot (not to exceed 8 feet) fence with a locking gate is required to obscure cannabis gardens from public view at ground level. No fence is necessary on properties where the cannabis is not visible to the public. The fence may be constructed of breathable materials to allow for air circulation.


Existing — A cannabis cultivation site must be contained within one continuous level area. Terracing to protect against soil erosion is not allowed.

Proposed — Terracing to prevent soil erosion is allowed and encouraged. (Smith said it was rare to get a completely flat area in Nevada County and that terracing was a more earth-friendly method to use on sloped surfaces. She said it was impossible to comply with the flat surface requirement and that people have been cited for having even a slightly slanted growing area.)


Existing — Although the board of supervisors amended the cultivation ordinance to allow for collectives, they did not allow any extra garden space for additional members of the collective.

Proposed — To protect the right of homeowners to the quiet enjoyment of their homes, collective growing is relegated to the rural ag zones to keep larger grows away from residential neighborhoods.


Existing — All greenhouses are considered indoor cultivation and are limited to 100 square feet, regardless of how property is zoned, the acreage or the number of members in a collective.

Proposed — The use of greenhouses is encouraged to mitigate sight and odor problems. They are considered outdoor cultivation.

Indoor Cultivation:

Existing — The grow room cannot be divided into vegetative and flowering areas. Indoor and outdoor cultivation cannot happen simultaneously.

Proposed — The grow room can be divided into vegetative and flowering areas. Indoor and outdoor cultivation can happen simultaneously.


Existing — Ordinance is considered complaint-driven. However, (according to “Yes on S”) the Sheriff has announced zero tolerance and will cite violations for any reason, including observation from aerial surveillance.

Proposed — Code enforcement will have more time and resources to investigate the large illegal grows taking place in our national forests.


Existing — Zones R-1, R-2, R-3, RA; Less than 2 acres, no outdoor cultivation, 100 square feet indoors; 2 acres or more, 75 square feet for outdoor cultivation or six plans in 25 gallon containers; 100 square feet indoors.

Proposed — Zones R-1, R-2, R-3; Less than 2 acres, no outdoor cultivation; 200 square feet indoors (if there are two patients living there; still 100 square feet per patient).


Existing — Zones AG, AE, FR, TPZ; Less than 2 acres, 150 square feet outdoors or 100 square feet indoors; 2 to 5 acres, 300 square feet outdoors or 100 square feet indoors; 5 to 10 acres, 400 square feet outdoors or 100 square feet indoors; 10 to 20 acres, 600 square feet outdoors or 100 square feet indoors; 20 acres or more, 1,000 square feet outdoors or 100 square feet indoors.

Proposed — Zones RA, AG, AE, FR, TPZ; Less than 5 acres, 24 immature plants, 18 mature outdoors plus up to 200 square feet indoors; 5 to 10 acres, 36 immature, 24 mature outdoors plus up to 300 square feet indoors; 10 to 20 acres, 48 immature, 36 mature plus up to 400 square feet indoors; 20 to 30 acres, 60 immature, 48 mature, plus up to 500 square feet indoors; 30 acres or more, 99 immature, 60 mature, plus up to 600 square feet indoors.


Existing — Federal standards; 1,000 feet from schools, school bus stops, churches, parks, child care facilities and youth-oriented facilities.

Proposed — California state standards; 600 feet from schools, churches, parks, licensed day care center and youth-oriented facilities. (Smith said the county’s ordinance includes inactive former bus stop locations that have been abandoned and are no longer used as bus stops. One bus route had 70 stops listed on the map but only 12 were active, she said. Smith also contends that ASA initially argued for 1,000-foot setbacks if the county would remove the bus stops. The county took the 1,000-foot setbacks, but kept in the bus stops, she said).

Reaction from Nevada County

According to the county’s ballot argument, Measure S would have numerous negative impacts, such as:

“Increase areas allowed for medical marijuana cultivation in all zones; allow large agricultural grow areas in residential agricultural zones; allow indoor and outdoor cultivation on the same parcel (currently either, but not both, is allowed); allow cultivation on parcels without a legal residence; eliminate prohibitions against cultivation in commercial, industrial and business park zones; eliminate requirement for written landlord consent to cultivate marijuana; decrease setbacks from 1,000 feet to 600 feet from schools, churches, parks, licensed day care and youth-oriented facilities; eliminate setbacks from outdoor living areas on adjacent parcels; eliminate 1,000-foot setbacks from school bus stops, allowing cultivation adjacent to school bus stops; remove special enforcement provisions. Current law provides special due process provisions for enforcing this ordinance. Measure S removes this entire section.”

To review the documents for Nevada County’s existing ordinance, see:


To see the proposed “Yes on S” ordinance and other links, see: http://asa-nc.com/

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

This story was updated on Tuesday, Aug. 19 to correct the square footage of the existing ordinance’s rural zone limits for 5 to 10 acres.

According to the argument released by the “Yes on S” campaign, the primary difference of Measure S is that every patient is limited to six plants each and is capped at 60 mature plants on 30-acre parcels for collectives who grow for people who are unable to grow for themselves.

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The Union Updated Aug 19, 2014 11:23AM Published Aug 19, 2014 01:01AM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.