Grass Valley City Council opens dialogue to medical marijuana cultivation |

Grass Valley City Council opens dialogue to medical marijuana cultivation

The Grass Valley City Council on Tuesday night discussed options for regulating the cultivation of medical marijuana citywide.

“What do we want our community to look like with the potential (2016) legalization?” Mayor Jason Fouyer said. “The whole idea is to have the conversation before we lose control. Get our input from the public, and craft something that makes sense for us, not the state of California, not the county, but for us.”

According to city documents, the city has no explicit rules regarding governing the outdoor cultivation of medical marijuana, though over recent years local police report they have received nuisance complaints, and identified numerous legal and illegal marijuana cultivation sites.

In 1996, the state adopted Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, that provides legal defense for medical marijuana users. Statewide, more than 40 cities and 25 counties have adopted ordinances that either regulate or ban medical marijuana cultivation.

On Tuesday, Grass Valley Police Department Police Chief John Foster gave a presentation on the impact of marijuana cultivation on the city’s law enforcement.

“In 2013 we had 13 calls for service related to medical marijuana. Some of these were valid under state law and others weren’t,” Foster said. “In 2014 we had nine calls for service, and so far 2015 we’ve had 8 calls for service.”

Cultivation options discussed Tuesday included proposed State Assembly bill 266, which asks for cultivation restrictions for growers in the state.

The council also reviewed what could happen locally if a proposed 2016 California initiative, that would legalize recreational marijuana for adults, were passed.

During public comment local resident and lawyer William McKenna said the city should promote policy that is clear and holds growers accountable to environmental and financial regulations.

“Somehow the grows are dumping nutrients into the streams and they are killing the fish,” McKenna said. “They aren’t conducting their business in a way that isn’t hindering the environment. I know there are millions of dollars of revenue going through this community untaxed. A good amount of the money in the community is grey.”

Andy Burton, a member of The Union editorial board, said marijuana use and cultivation has been a major issue citywide and needs to be continually addressed publicly.

“It seems to me that the dialogue is it’s inevitable that it will become legal,” he said. “My biggest concern is that the dialogue in our community is being shaped by the extreme sides of the issue … But there’s the rest of us in the middle. I would encourage the city council would do more of this. More public forums, more conversations.”

On Tuesday, council members seemed to be pleased with the fact that the city was promoting a conversation on the topic in advance of the 2016 election.

“I think the concern that people are putting forth is the (2016) initiative,” Vice Mayor Howard Levine said. “Whatever ends up on the ballot and how do you be proactive about it. I think that from time to time we need to come back and talk about what’s going on in the legislation process and try and have a handle on things that are happening in the state.”

Council member Lisa Swarthout said the approval of AB 266, or possible statewide legalization initiatives, could hinder local control over cultivation and use down the line.

Council member Jan Arbuckle said she’s been hearing that community members want some type of regulation in place before marijuana becomes legal.

“It’s unfortunate but I think it’s going to be legal, and I think that with it being a fairly large election it will pass,” said Arbuckle. “So I think it would be good to have some kind of regulation in place.”

No regulations were agreed upon Tuesday, though council members said they look to address medical marijuana cultivation moving forward.

In other business, the council held the second reading of an ordinance that will provide a three-year time extension on all planning entitlements for previously approved projects citywide.

The initiative was approved by council members on July 15.

To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email or call 530-477-4236.

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