Nevada County pot advocates eye Yuba County’s progressive ordinance
December 14, 2012
A medical marijuana cultivation measure called the most progressive in California won approval from the Yuba County Supervisors Tuesday by a 4-1 vote.
"We've made history," Sam McConnell, president of the Yuba County Growers Association, told the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, adding that every other county in the state can now follow Yuba County's lead.
Local medical marijuana advocates are hoping that Nevada County will be one of those — but Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal, for one, expressed skepticism.
The Nevada County Board of Supervisors passed its controversial ordinance on May 8, regulating legal grows from a nuisance standpoint. The ordinance limits the size of grows depending on zoning, setbacks and plot size and imposes other restrictions, such as security fencing.
Yuba County's approval of an amended ordinance Tuesday follows a measure booed in April at a Board of Supervisors meeting there as being too restrictive for medical marijuana growers.
Attorney Jeff Lake had filed a legal challenge in July to the original Yuba County measure for groups including the Old Crow Farm Collective and Deja Vu Collective, along with Yuba Growers. He said the ordinance adopted in April represented a "de facto ban on medical marijuana collectives."
According to Lake, there will be a second reading of the newly amended ordinance next Tuesday.
"I am confident it will be approved," Lake said Tuesday afternoon. "Once it's enacted, it will be effective 30 days later."
At that point, Lake said, he will dismiss the suit against Yuba County, with each side bearing its own costs.
Lake said the revised ordinance was an "excellent result" for both sides and showed the willingness of Yuba County to sit down and negotiate a "reasonable" ordinance.
The new ordinance allows a total of 18 plants to be grown on less than an acre, while up to 99 plants are allowed on more than 20 acres.
"It gives access to collectives, even large collectives, because they can go to rural areas and have enough room to cultivate enough medicine for their needs and the needs of the collective's members," Lake said.
Additionally, the ordinance did away with a misdemeanor provision, because it's not really a criminally based ordinance, it's a nuisance ordinance, he said.
"It takes away the registration requirements from the Sheriff and for landlords, which as we know is a big deal," Lake said, referring to the issues in Mendocino County, where the federal government has issued a subpoena for the records the county keeps on its medical marijuana permits.
"We were very happy to see that provision eliminated."
Most importantly, Lake said, the new Yuba County ordinance allows the amount of medicine per parcel to be determined by plant count rather than canopy or plant size.
"So what does (this) mean for Nevada County?" Lake said. "We would like to do the same thing we did in Yuba County."
Lake planned to meet Tuesday evening with members of the Nevada County chapter of Americans for Safe Access to discuss Yuba County's ordinance.
ASA-NC is the lead plaintiff in a Nevada County lawsuit that challenges the legality of the county's ordinance; the case is scheduled to be heard in May by Superior Court Judge Sean Dowling.
Lake said he wants to present Yuba County's ordinance to the "stakeholders" in Nevada County, including District Attorney Cliff Newell, Royal and the Board of Supervisors.
"We'd like to sit down with them … to get everyone to the table to come up with something that is reasonably enforceable
by law enforcement, that gives adequate due process for administrative appeals and allows
for safe access to cultivation," he said.
"I'm hopeful that Nevada County will be as reasonable, as progressive, and as well-informed as the people in Yuba County, so we could get a resolution of the lawsuit (here) that will be favorable for all concerned."
Royal, however, said Nevada County's ordinance is working well, from his perspective.
"I don't see the board revisiting it," he said. "I don't see why they would at this point in time. I think it's working well, the growers have been coming into compliance."
Royal acknowledged that some aspects of the ordinance have required some "fine-tuning," and said next year's growing season will be the true test.
Nevada County Counsel Alison Barratt-Green could not be reached for comment before press time.
To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4229. Ryan McCarthy of the Marysville Appeal-Democrat contributed to this story.