ASA: Progress on ballot initiative |

ASA: Progress on ballot initiative

File photo by Liz Kellar for The Union

The Nevada County chapter of Americans for Safe Access continues to gather signatures on petitions in an effort to place a ballot initiative before voters sometime in 2014.

“We are about 85 percent of the way there,” said Patricia Smith, president of the local chapter of ASA. “We are doubling down on our efforts next week to try to put this thing to bed.”

Smith’s ballot initiative seeks to alter key provisions of Nevada County’s recently approved medical marijuana cultivation ordinance, which places certain restrictions on marijuana grows in the interest of protecting residents from nuisances, such as the plant’s distinctive, pungent smell.

The organization that advocates for the rights of medical marijuana patients needs to collect just under 10,000 signatures (9,923) by Dec. 30 to force an election.

“I don’t ever want to put the cart before the horse and anything can happen, but it’s looking good,” Smith said.

Smith said the members of her organization have yet to decide whether they will conduct a special election or have it scheduled on the June primary election.

“I think we will win either way,” Smith said.

The major difference between the existing ordinance, which was passed in May 2012, and Smith’s proposed ordinance has to do with the manner in which officials can regulate the amount of plants.

The county ordinance regulates the amount of plants according to the square footage, which Smith has characterized as “so prohibitive as to amount to a de facto ban on cultivation at all.”

The ordinance particularly punishes collectives, Smith said, adding that the concept of one person growing for a diverse group of patients is vital to the California law passed in 1996 that legalized medical marijuana.

Smith said the local ASA’s ordinance would regulate according to the number of plants, which more appropriately balances the rights of patients with a concern of nuisance issues to neighbors.

Sheriff Keith Royal told The Union in July that the ASA’s ordinance would significantly alter his office’s ability to respond to citizen complaints and that number of plants is not an appropriate method of regulation because some plants grow to be as large as 12 feet in diameter.

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

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