Nevada, Placer, Yuba counties vexed by mishmash of marijuana rules | TheUnion.com

Nevada, Placer, Yuba counties vexed by mishmash of marijuana rules

Eric Vodden
Special to The Union

How local governments handle pot

— Medical marijuana cultivation will likely next surface locally when Marysville takes on the issue in the coming months.

Police Chief Aaron Easton said he is meeting with various medical marijuana interests in developing a cultivation ordinance for presentation to the City Council. He said an out-and-out ban on growing is just one option being considered.

The city already has an ordinance regulating dispensaries and that won’t be addressed in the new cultivation ordinance, Easton said. That regulation outlines specific distances from homes, schools, playgrounds and other public facilities where dispensaries can be placed, but the reality is that the only eligible location is near a dump along Highway 20.

— In Sutter County, a 2012 ordinance that restricts marijuana cultivation to a specified number of feet from various land uses is still in effect. The county banned medical marijuana dispensaries in 1996, just months before statewide passage of the Compassionate Use Act.

Last August, in response to growers saying the regulations are too restrictive, Sutter County supervisors said they would review the ordinance in a year. That potential review would now be just a month away.

— Yuba City has in place an ordinance that allows personal cultivation within 75 square feet in residential areas, but only in a detached registered building with security fencing and filtration systems. Growing can’t be done within 750 feet of a school.

Dispensaries are not allowed.

— Live Oak, whose ban on both cultivation and dispensaries was upheld in the courts, is sometimes credited with starting the current trend toward tighter regulations. The city was cited by Yuba County as setting a legal precedent for its own ordinance.

“Live Oak had a lot to do with it,” said Roger Morgan of medical marijuana opponent Take America Back. “Riverside also was challenged and also won its court case favoring local control.”

— In Wheatland, indoor growing is allowed as long as it isn’t within 300 feet of schools or other land uses frequented by children. Neither dispensaries nor outdoor growing are allowed, City Manager Greg Greeson said.

— Eric Vodden

From Yuba County officials’ perspective, there is a bit of a domino effect that comes into play when talking about regulating medical marijuana cultivation.

The notion is growers were pushed out of Butte County and into Yuba when the former enacted tighter growing regulations and when voters last year backed the new laws.

“It was presented to people that it was all but legalized here (Yuba County),” said Supervisor John Nicoletti.

That has at least been partially borne out when growers at times went before the board last year, appealing fines and saying they weren’t aware of county regulations.

Likewise in Nevada County, voters last November turned away Measure S, portrayed by opponents as a loosening of enforcement regulations. It followed a campaign that was “rife with controversy,” The Union reported.

It all goes to show Yuba County is hardly acting in a vacuum when it comes to challenges to its new, stricter marijuana cultivation ordinance.

In reality, Yuba County is just a piece of a confusing patchwork of different local ordinances in different communities, proposed state legislation and potential 2016 ballot measures.

Trying to keep track of it all requires constant vigilance and a mammoth spreadsheet.

Yuba’s ordinance, being challenged in court, bans outdoor growing and limits indoor growing to a dozen plants in a qualified accessory structure.

While there is no outright ban on dispensaries, there is also no planning designation through which to apply for one.

A Democratic legislator whose bill regulating medical marijuana was passed by the Assembly has referred to the numerous local debates as “the Wild West.”

“I think we can all agree that stronger regulation is needed … and is long overdue,” said Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda.

There have been victories on both sides, though the recent tote board seems to favor tightening restrictions.

Still, Placer County supervisors, faced with standing-room-only crowds, recently backed off on banning grows. Tulare County supervisors also declined to impose a complete ban and decided to instead focus on enforcement of its existing law.

“A lot are holding back now,” said Roger Morgan of the anti-medical marijuana organization Take Back America. “They are being told it will be legal anyway and have decided to wait and see what happens.”

Officials for the pro-medical marijuana group California NORML could not be reached for this report.

Others have followed the example of Yuba County — or rather Yuba County has followed them.

Shasta County voters last year upheld a new ordinance under which much of Yuba’s is based. Sacramento County also bans outdoor cultivation.

In Southern California, voters in Yucca Valley and Riverside recently rejected allowing marijuana dispensaries in their cities.

But, with all of the political fights in cities and counties, there is also proposed state legislation that would give the state more control over regulating medical marijuana. AB 266, already passed by the Assembly, would create an Office of Marijuana Regulation within the governor’s office and increase state involvement when locals consider regulations.

Area Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Nicolaus, opposed the bill, saying it would diminish local control.

He has said it would likely undergo revisions before being considered by the Senate.

“There is a role for the state to play, but my feeling is it creates an overreaching state bureaucracy that could usurp local control,” Gallagher said earlier.

All of the local battles and the state legislation may end up being moot anyway if any of five proposed statewide measures or constitutional amendments make it to the 2016 ballot. Four would legalize marijuana statewide for recreational use, Morgan said.

Eric Vodden is a reporter for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat; he can be reached at 749-4769 or evodden@appealdemocrat.com.


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