Nevada County Sheriff’s deputies gear up for pot ordinance compliance checks
April 30, 2013
With the advent of warmer weather and the beginning of the growing season, the Nevada County Sheriff's Office has begun conducting compliance checks to enforce the county's medical marijuana cultivation ordinance.
In 2012, the team began responding to marijuana cultivation nuisance complaints after the controversial ordinance was passed by the county Board of Supervisors. The ordinance is intended to regulate legal grows from a nuisance standpoint; it limits the size of grows depending on zoning, setbacks and plot size and imposes other restrictions, such as security fencing.
After a Nevada County Superior Court judge refused to block the ordinance in late July 2012, the Narcotics Task Force ramped up the number of compliance checks and the department added two full-time deputies to the ordinance detail for the season.
Several challenges are wending their way through the legal system, and local medical marijuana activists are currently working on a proposed ballot initiative to overturn or amend the ordinance.
Americans for Safe Access-Nevada County filed suit against Nevada County last May following the board's approval; that suit is set to go to trial June 18.
The Sheriff's Narcotics Task Force is currently conducting compliance checks and will be adding back the two-man team to assist them in the next few weeks, said Lt. Steve Tripp.
"The marijuana season is just getting started," Tripp said Friday. "We want to get a jump on it. We're already getting tips — I just got one this morning."
Tripp said that in order to keep up, all of the deputies on patrol have been trained on the cultivation ordinance and the paperwork involved in citing growers.
"They're the ones who are out in the field," he said. "If they do a call for service and they come across a garden that appears to be out of compliance, they can post the violation and do the paperwork … We're trying to get a well-organized machine so things don't slip through the cracks."
The task force then will do any necessary follow-up to ensure that the violation is remedied, unless the person cited files an appeal with the county, Tripp said.
The narcotics task force members will primarily be following up on tips received and doing "knock and talks," as well as focusing on grows that appear illegal, Tripp said.
Tripp stressed that the enforcement team was not trying to stop people from growing marijuana legally, adding, "We're just trying to make sure people stay within the guidelines."
ASA-Nevada County founder Patricia Smith said the local marijuana activist group's attorney, Jeffrey Lake, still is working to draft the language for the group's proposed ballot initiative.
According to Nevada County Counsel Alison Barratt-Green, Lake offered a request for mediation, which was rejected by the county in closed session.
Some minor amendments to the cultivation ordinance relating to the ability for citizens to operate collectives and the identification of a point person for appeal hearings were approved by the board of supervisors March 2.
"The issue we wanted to clarify is that one can collectively cultivate as long as there is one person living on the property," said Assistant County Counsel Marcos Kropf at the time.
But Smith has said the amendments are insufficient.
The revised draft acknowledges the right of collective grows but does not increase the garden size based on the number of people in the collective, Smith said.
"Unless you live on 20 acres or more, the ordinance doesn't allow enough room to grow for more than one patient — and unless you live on at least 10 acres, you do not have room to grow enough medicine for yourself," Smith told The Union in March. "Saying it's OK and then not making allowances to accommodate additional members is deceptive at best."
To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4229.