Revised medical pot guidelines OK’d
If you’re carrying a medical marijuana recommendation, you’d better count your crop.
The allowable number of marijuana plants used for medical purposes was recently reduced from 10 to six in a set of guidelines approved by the Nevada County Office of the District Attorney and local law enforcement.
The Nevada County Medical Marijuana Inter-Agency Protocol was approved late Wednesday night – changing the guidelines local medical marijuana users have followed for seven years.
Medical marijuana advocates say the protocol has no validity in a court of law and is a lot of hoopla. They caution that it could turn legitimate novice users to the black market to obtain the drug illegally because the allowable number of plants has been reduced.
Local law enforcement members said it’s an improvement over previous guidelines which, they say, gave criminal growers more latitude. They said that the previous recommendation of 10 plants was more than people might use for medicinal purposes.
However, some question whether it is even legal to reduce the number of plants that can be grown with a prescription.
“In my personal opinion, it’s much ado about nothing,” said Martin Webb, an advocate for medical marijuana use.
The guidelines are not statutes, ordinances or regulations, the protocol reads. They do not supersede a doctor’s recommendation and do not hold up in a court of law, Webb said.
“A lot of patients think these guidelines are what they are allowed to grow. A lot of folks are really confused,” Webb said. “I really see it as law enforcement’s attempt to threaten or scare people to do what they say.”
He said ill patients new to growing marijuana could turn to the black market if their attempts to grow six plants outdoors fail.
Advocates and law enforcement both agree that when Californians originally voted for Proposition 215 in 1996, they did so to help critically ill people. However, law enforcement says there has been an abuse of the regulations.
“Now there’s these people using marijuana for a sore foot or a personality disorder. Everyone knows it’s been taken advantage of,” said Capt. Ron Smith of the county sheriff’s office. He said the new protocol will give law enforcement tighter controls.
With the old limits, people were growing 10 plants whether they needed them or not, District Attorney Cliff Newell said. Now, the county is more in line with the state’s recommendation of six plants.
“People just automatically defaulted to the 10-plant limit,” he said. The result was an excess amount of the herb that was then sold for criminal profit.
The state also allows people with recommendations to keep 8 ounces of processed pot, while Nevada County allows 2 pounds, something that didn’t change.
A marijuana plant can produce highly variable amounts of pot depending on the soil, lighting and whether or not it is grown indoors or outdoors. It is possible for one plant to produce 2 pounds of marijuana.
For this reason, a qualified patient may possess an amount greater than the guidelines suggest if the amount is consistent with a doctor’s recommendations.
Newell said the protocol was not designed to hurt legitimate medical users but to crack down on law breakers and criminals.
“Medical users are pretty low on the list of priorities,” Newell said.
To download the protocol, visit the district attorney’s page on drugs at: http://www.mynevada county.com/da/index.cfm?ccs=656
To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail laurab@theunion .com or call 477-4231.
2007 Nevada County Medical Marijuana
Qualified patients and caregivers will be allowed
• To maintain no more than six mature female plants compared to a 2000 protocol that allowed for five to10 plants
• No more than 75 feet of vegetative canopy growing at one time
• No more than 2 pounds of processed marijuana will be allowed despite a draft version of the protocol that called for changing the amount to 8 ounces
• A limit of 12 immature plants was taken out of the new guidelines
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