Nevada City attorney Stephen Munkelt talks marijuana at ASA meeting
Stephen Munkelt has concerns about growing medical marijuana in greenhouses, regardless of what a surface reading of existing law appears to be.
Munkelt, a Nevada City attorney, said the urgency ordinance banning outdoor marijuana grows is contradictory. It states that people shouldn’t be able to see into a structure like a greenhouse, which would also make it difficult for sunlight to get through. He also wonders how a greenhouse can meet the county’s definition of an indoor grow.
“I don’t know,” Munkelt said at a Tuesday meeting of Americans for Safe Access. “There seem to be seriously conflicting parts of the ordinance that was passed in January.
“I don’t see how you can fit within the current county guidelines and have a greenhouse,” he added.
Some 50 people attended the meeting to hear Munkelt speak about local, state and federal marijuana laws. The discussion came about three weeks before county voters will cast ballots on Measure W, an initiative that if passed will implement an outdoor medical marijuana grow ban and limit indoor grows to 12 plants.
Local law changed on Jan. 12, when supervisors implemented their own ban in advance of the June 7 vote. What it didn’t change, Munkelt said, was the enforcement process.
Growers who receive a violation can file an appeal within five days. That appeal would lead to a hearing, which commonly results in an order to abate, Munkelt said.
Authorities can then remove a grow if the owner opts against abating it himself.
New, sweeping statewide regulations went into effect Jan. 1. Munkelt, however, noted that it has no power. New state agencies haven’t yet hired employees to implement the law.
“Even though that law has gone into effect, it’s not effective,” Munkelt said.
As for federal law, all marijuana activity is illegal. U.S. attorneys typically focus on large, commercial marijuana networks and avoid prosecuting smaller grows in compliance with their state laws, Munkelt said.
Patients who have a doctor’s recommendation still have a legal defense. He suggested people get that recommendation in writing and have it updated each year. Additionally, everyone that patient deals with should have their own recommendation, Munkelt said.
One questioner asked if a civil rights argument could be made in court. Munkelt advised against it.
“It’s a political problem and the best solutions are political,” he said. “That means vote No on W.”
To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4239.
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