Who gets justice from cultivation code?
The attitude displayed by Cultivation Code Compliance officers in Saturday’s edition of The Union, “NCSO Receives Nearly 300 Complaints Since Passage of Marijuana Ordinance,” reveals the underlying contempt the department has for the rights of medical marijuana patients and the law itself.
Although an alleged 294 complaints were received, only 85 citations were issued, which could lead one to surmise that most of the complaints were baseless.
The department’s attitude is evidenced in part by their reaction to the much publicized case of Southgate v Johnson. The Southgate’s faked a cultivation code citation that appeared to have originated from Sheriff Royal demanding their neighbor, Renee Johnson, immediately abate her medical cannabis garden (Johnson is recovering from Stage Four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and grows cannabis with the help of her family to treat her condition). Instead of investigating the Southgates, Renee was issued a real citation and ordered to abate her garden, which exceeded the 300 square feet allowed by the new restrictions.
How does this square with the stated intention of our Cultivation Ordinance? Section G-IV 5.2 (J) of the ordinance reads in part, “The purpose and intent of this Article is to implement State law regulating the cultivation of medical marijuana in a manner consistent with State law. It is not intended to prohibit persons from individually, collectively or cooperatively exercising any right otherwise granted by State laws (Prop 215 & SB 420).”
While Prop 215 does not allow “unlimited quantities of marijuana to be grown anywhere,” SB 420 does establish thresholds that the county is not empowered to reduce. It is disingenuous to assert that one can still grow six plants per qualified patient, but insist they be grown in a space that cannot accommodate fully mature plants.
SB 420, Sect 1. (a) 2 reads, “Reports from across the State have revealed problems and uncertainties in the Act that have impeded the ability of law enforcement officers to enforce its provisions as the voters intended, and, therefore, have prevented qualified patients and designated caregivers from obtaining the protections afforded by the Act.”
Let’s look at the some of the protections in SB420:
— Allows reimbursement for a caregiver’s materials and labor 11362.765 (c)
— Empowers physicians to grant exemptions for established quantities 11362.778 (b)
— Allows communities to adopt more realistic amounts – but does not allow them to go below the “floor” amounts (6 mature or 12 immature plants) 11362.77 (c)
— Recognizes collective and co-op gardens without regard to county boundaries 11362.775
— Requires police to comply with provisions of the Act. 11362.78
— Exempts patients in their own homes from penalties associated with using cannabis within 1,000 feet of a school. 11362.79 (b)
People rightly get upset over “activist courts” that interpret laws based on their personal beliefs. Our Sheriff’s department is guilty of doing the same. Their remedy was to turn something that was legal into something illegal; because no matter how you word it, the ordinance is nothing but a thinly disguised ban on otherwise legal medical cannabis providers. Mind you, the ordinance specifically deals with medical providers — not recreational users or commercial growers who sell to the black market.
Before the ordinance was passed May 8, most growers were in compliance with state and local laws. Many growers already had their plants in the ground. Lt. Steve Tripp complained that no one tried to comply with the ordinance although they knew it was coming “months in advance,” but no one could adequately prepare when the provisions in the ordinance changed substantially at each reading — including where the garden could be sited.
Americans for Safe Access-Nevada County does not object to reasonable guidelines for cannabis cultivation, but the county clearly overstepped its authority when it passed Ordinance No. 2349. This ordinance is not just an assault on MMJ patients, it is an assault on individual property owner’s rights. We hope the county will agree to negotiate, but we are prepared to use every legal remedy at our disposal to overturn this ordinance, including an appeal to the Supreme Court.
Patricia Smith is the chair of Americans for Safe Access-Nevada County.
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