Yuba County pot growers’ appeal denied
Special to The Union
An appellate court has denied an appeal by Yuba County marijuana growers to overturn a judge’s ruling that blocks a voter referendum on the county’s new pot cultivation ordinance.
The 3rd District Court of Appeal on Wednesday “summarily denied” the appeal filed by Yuba Patients Coalition and six growers. The emergency writ was filed Tuesday morning in response to Yuba County Superior Court Judge Benjamin Wirtschafter’s denial of a temporary restraining order for the new ordinance.
The ruling leaves intact an “urgency” designation made by the Board of Supervisors when it approved the new, more restrictive ordinance. That eliminated the 30-day period for it to take effect and for circulating referendum petitions.
Deputy County Counsel John Vacek, representing Yuba County in the hearing, called the ruling a win for the county.
“I think the law is pretty clear on this particular issue and that was my argument to Judge Wirtschafter,” Vacek said. “The courts can’t overturn a legislative action.”
Joe Elford, attorney for Yuba Patients Coalition and the individual growers, decried the appellate court denial.
“It is shameful that the citizens of Yuba County have to fight so hard just to have their democratic beliefs heard,” he said.
Elford could file an appeal with the state Supreme Court, though today is the deadline for which referendum petitions could be filed with election officials.
Though precluded from filing already-gathered referendum signatures, opponents still have the option of seeking a voter initiative. Instead of overturning the new law, an initiative would ask voters to approve a whole new ordinance.
The previous ordinance allowed 18 plants on an acre or less and as many as 99 on 20 acres or more. The new one allows no outdoor plants, 12 inside a qualified accessory structure and none in residences.
Other legal proceedings
Separately, Judge Benjamin Wirtschafter this week is expected to issue a ruling on a preliminary injunction that would halt enforcement of the new Yuba County marijuana ordinance pending completion of legal proceedings. Wirtschafter took that matter under submission at the conclusion of a Tuesday afternoon hearing.
Still to be heard is the initial lawsuit filed by growers seeking a court determination that the new ordinance is unconstitutional and a permanent injunction preventing its enforcement. The county has 30 days to respond to an amended complaint filed this week on the lawsuit.
Eric Vodden is a reporter with the Marysville Appeal-Democrat.
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