Marijuana: Sheriff, medical marijuana advocate argue success of outdoor grow ban, Measure W |

Marijuana: Sheriff, medical marijuana advocate argue success of outdoor grow ban, Measure W

The existing outdoor medical marijuana ban is working.

Or it’s not. It depends on who you ask.

Sheriff Keith Royal called the ban successful, noting his office has been able to resolve complaints about marijuana grows.

Patricia Smith, president of the Nevada County chapter of Americans for Safe Access, said it’s too early in the growing season to know if it’s working. She added, though, there’s no indication all growers will obey the ban.

“When you make a law that’s impossible to follow, people are going to break it,” Smith said.

Royal disagrees, saying the Jan. 12 ordinance that banned outdoor grows and limited indoor grows to 12 plants helps his office. Before the supervisors implemented the existing ban, and put the issue on next week’s ballot, deputies would have to measure the square footage of a grow to ensure it complied with the law.

Now deputies know that if they see an outdoor grow, it’s noncompliant.

“It’s very successful at this point,” Royal said.

There have been 71 complaints made about grows through May 27 this year. Authorities have conducted 37 inspections, 20 of which resulted in unfounded complaints. Deputies have issued 15 citations. Three abatements, two of them done by the growers, have occurred, sheriff’s records state.

The sheriff’s office received 41 complaints from January to May in 2014 and 48 during the same time last year, records show.

Royal said his office’s patrol division handles grow complaints during the off-season. Two school resource officers, who aren’t at their schools during the summer, focus on marijuana full time during the height of the growing season.

The sheriff has no current plans to ask the Board of Supervisors for more deputies. He wants to see the ordinance, which would be augmented by Measure W if it passes, in effect for months.

“What I want to see is what type of complaints we’re getting,” Royal said. “A lot of it is going to be education.”

Royal also has no plans at this time to ask supervisors to create a fee structure for grow violations. The existing ban, and Measure W, have the same penalties as the 2012 ordinance that allowed outdoor grows.

No fees are assessed per plant or per grow. Instead authorities can recoup the cost of an abatement and the appeal process. The sheriff’s office began recouping those costs in 2015.

Authorities have received $8,163.02 in recouped costs. Another $8,524.40 remains unpaid, records state.

Smith said the sheriff’s records show that some growers are following the ordinance. A desire to be compliant is one of the growers’ main arguments for regulation instead of an outright ban.

If Measure W fails, Smith wants several groups — including the sheriff’s office and Nevada Irrigation District — to work together on a reasonable solution. If the measure passes, she and others will examine their options.

A lawsuit remains a possibility, Smith said.

The pair also are on opposing sides of the dispensary issue. Dispensaries are permitted businesses where medical marijuana patients can purchase their medicine.

There are no dispensaries in Nevada County. Royal wants it to stay that way. He claims that other areas have seen crime increase when dispensaries open.

“It’s a natural draw,” he added. “There’s the dope.”

Smith sees dispensaries as the best method of addressing many concerns. A dispensary would record every medical marijuana transaction that occurs.

“We need a legal source where it’s under the microscope,” she added.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email or call 530-477-4239.

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