Supervisors should compromise on pot cultivation ordinance
April 21, 2014
Tomorrow, April 22, the Nevada County board of supervisors will have the opportunity to adopt a new, reasonable and workable medical marijuana ordinance already proven to have the support of thousands of Nevada County residents. They should simply do so.
The county's current Cannabis Cultivation Ordinance doesn't work because it is too restrictive. But it passed under "urgency" on May 8, 2012, with the board acknowledging it was flawed and stating they would address it again sometime in the future.
During its first year of implementation, it became clear that up to 90 percent of Nevada County residents who grew medical marijuana — legal in the state of California since 1996 — could not meet the county ordinance's rules for "compliance."
Since the board did not take action to improve this situation, Americans for Safe Access—Nevada County (ASA—NC) drafted a more reasonable ordinance and began circulating a petition to get it, at the latest, on the June 2014 ballot.
On Dec. 30, 2013, ASA-NC submitted to the county elections office nearly 11,000 voter signatures — more than enough for its proposed ordinance to become a ballot initiative.
Yet, it was not until March 27 — apparently the last legal date for the elections office to certify the signatures, that this process was completed. Three months had passed and ASA-NC was now told it was too late for its proposed ordinance to make the June ballot.
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ASA-NC and its members — as well as, certainly, the thousands of Nevada County residents who signed for the right to vote on such an initiative this June — were, and still are, extremely disappointed by this outcome.
ASA-NC will continue its fight to pass the new ordinance, even if it takes until the November election. That is, unless the board of supervisors avoids creating months of contention — let alone a waste of time, energy and money — and instead adopts the new, reasonable and workable ordinance at tomorrow's meeting.
Such action would allow the county to focus its resources on more serious issues. In February, a Union poll identified Nevada County citizens' top three concerns as meth, heroin and alcohol, in that order. Why not resolve the medical marijuana ordinance issue now and put our county's law enforcement and health department resources toward tackling these major problems?
An April 3, an Associated Press article in The Union stated that according to a newly released Pew Research Center survey:
"Three-fourths of Americans say it's inevitable that marijuana will be legal for recreational use across the nation, whether they support such policies or not."
The trend is clear. However, ASA is about medical marijuana — which has been found to help cancer patients with pain and appetite issues and has indisputedly helped many people with catastrophic epileptic seizures — just to name a few of its many benefits.
Like the current ordinance, the new ASA-NC measure keeps small residential grows indoors where they won't be a nuisance and limits outdoor production to parcels of two acres or more in size.
The main difference is that the new ordinance shifts the focus of outdoor regulation from restricting the square footage of a parcel's garden to restricting its number of plants.
Why does this matter? As any good farmer knows, the spacing and placement of plants — depending on each site's unique characteristics — can be a huge factor in avoiding molds, pests and disease. In turn, this affects keeping harvests as safe and organic as possible.
We all can agree that large illegal growers who trespass onto private and government land are a source of crime and damage to our environment.
Unfortunately, by squelching small time "mom and pop" local growers, our county is essentially handing over marijuana production to those living outside the law who could care less about county ordinances.
Let's focus on the bad guys who grow and go, rather than our own county's residents, who try to abide by the law (I say "try to" because of the county's currently unworkable ordinance), take care of their land, work hard and pay taxes.
It's been two years since the board of supervisors passed its current medical marijuana ordinance under "urgency" while stating it would address the ordinance's obvious flaws in the future.
Well folks, as the saying goes, the future is now. And the issue, now, is truly urgent.
It's spring. Not only is it time to plant crops — it is time to plant good will and compromise, not contention and division. It is time for the board of supervisors to adopt the new ordinance.
Mary Carol is a member of ASA-Nevada County and lives in South County.