Matthew Renda

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July 12, 2013
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Medical marijuana backers seeking change

Medical marijuana advocates have filed paperwork to force the county to hold a special election that will ask voters to decide the substance of the medical marijuana ordinance enacted in May of last year.

Patricia Smith, president of the Nevada County chapter of Americans for Safe Access, has repeatedly asserted that the medical marijuana cultivation ordinance is a de facto ban on collective cultivation of the medicinal plant and presents other problems for patients who need the medicine to allay various ailments.

“There is a sweet spot that properly balances patients’ well-being and potential nuisances to neighbors,” Smith said Friday at the Eric Rood Administrative Center, where she was filing paperwork with the Nevada County Elections Office. “The present ordinance prioritizes the right of property owners at the expense of patients. Our ordinance protects everybody.”

Smith and her cohorts have formulated an ordinance and will put it in front of voters if they are able to garner the 9,923 signatures required to move the process further toward a special election.

Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal said the ordinance as currently constructed is more effective in protecting his constituents’ quality of life.

“My greatest concern is that (Smith’s) ordinance provides for greater latitude in the location and volume of plants,” Royal said.

Royal said the proposed ordinance would “dramatically reduce his department’s ability to respond to complaints,” which have begun to pick up and will steadily increase in volume when the peak grow season arrives in late August and continues through September.

Residents most often complain about the smell of the plants and also the traffic and trash generated by grow operations, Royal said.

Smith said the ordinance actually unduly punishes small collectives and contains unreasonable fencing requirements.

She added that grows should be restricted by the number of plants instead of according to square footage.

Royal said some plants can grow to be as large as 12 feet in diameter, so regulating according to number would not be an effective means of limiting the amount of marijuana at a given land plot.

Smith has already filed a Notice of Intention to Circulate Petition, the first step in the process.

She has publicized the notice in local media and was on her way to provide the elections office with proof of publication Friday.

Once the document is verified, Smith can begin to collect signatures, needing to gather 20 percent of the votes cast for California governor in the last gubernatorial election.

Smith must present the signatures 180 days from the date when the ballot title and summary were first received, which is Dec. 30, 2013.

If Smith successfully collects the required amount of signatures in the mandated time frame, the matter will be forwarded to the Nevada County board of supervisors, which can do one of the following:

— The board can adopt the proposed ordinance without alteration at the regular meeting at which the petition is presented.

— The board can immediately call a special election.

— The board may order a report at the meeting where the petition is presented and then do either of the first two options within 10 days of receiving the report.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email or call 530-477-4239.

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The Union Updated Jul 19, 2013 02:37PM Published Jul 16, 2013 11:39PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.