Prop 64: Next steps for Nevada County | TheUnion.com

Prop 64: Next steps for Nevada County

Right now, a Nevada County homeowner can grow up to six marijuana plants in his or her home, regardless of existing prohibitions in a local cultivation ordinance, one attorney says.

Sheriff Keith Royal isn't certain that's correct.

Tuesday's passage of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, listed as Proposition 64 on the ballot, means that adults can possess and use cannabis. They can't legally buy it yet, though, as business licenses for recreational marijuana won't exist for several months.

One key aspect of Prop 64 allows people to grow up to six plants indoors. Local governments can regulate those grows, but can't outright prohibit them.

"My understanding is there are issues that need to be clarified about how far can a county go with its zoning requirements," Royal said about the six-plant provision. "There's going to be a lot of research and a lot of discussions about where this goes from here."

Alison Barratt-Green, county counsel, agreed that Prop 64 states local governments can't outright prohibit indoor grows limited to six plants. However, she noted the county already has grow regulations in place.

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The county's existing cultivation ordinance requires homeowners to have certain zoning and acreage sizes to grow marijuana. No grows are allowed in traditional residential zones.

Barratt-Green declined to give an opinion about whether the local ordinance restricts grows in those traditional residential areas. A subcommittee tasked with crafting new grow regulations will address that issue, among others.

According to attorney Melissa Sanchez, whose law firm focuses on cannabis cultivators and manufacturers, any statewide proposition would trump a local ordinance.

"It's pretty clear that the six plants indoors are allowed," Sanchez added. "The indoor would be something that's allowed.

"They can say, 'Well, you can't just do your own electrical,'" she said. "But the proposition says you can grow your plants indoors. The local jurisdiction can say how you do (the electrical work)."

Grass Valley Police Chief Alex Gammelgard agrees. He said a homeowner in his city can legally grow up to six plants indoors under Prop 64. Any number greater than six, or any state violation, would still warrant a citation.

"We will continue at the city of Grass Valley to have our community stakeholder meetings and seek input," the chief said.

Attorney Heather Burke, who has a Nevada City law practice, anticipates a handful of legal challenges stemming from Prop 64.

"We'll see this absolutely be litigated in numerous contexts," Burke said.

Prop 64 touches on several different aspects of marijuana, including criminal justice reform, licensing and public consumption.

Gammelgard fears that some might erroneously believe that Prop 64 allows public consumption of pot. He emphasized that public use is forbidden.

Sanchez said the proposition prohibits smoking in public, unless a local government specifically allows it. The downtowns of Grass Valley and Nevada City allow no smoking.

"The starting point is, no, you can't do that," Sanchez added.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.

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