Our View: It’s time for more clarity, consistency in marijuana law
When it comes to marijuana and its legal status in society, the conversation often centers on the jurisdiction.
Marijuana remains in the eye of the federal government as a Schedule I narcotic, considered illegal to possess, sell or cultivate.
In California, with a physician’s recommendation, marijuana may be possessed, distributed, and cultivated for medicinal purposes.
Here in Nevada County, with a recommendation, one may possess and consume marijuana for medical reasons, but distribution through dispensaries has been banned by both Grass Valley and Nevada City, as well as across the county itself. Cultivation is allowed under the regulated size, scope and conditions as outlined in the county ordinance approved by the Nevada County Board of Supervisors in 2012. But growing marijuana for profit, and not for medicinal use, remains illegal.
This week, a Nevada County judge dismissed a felony charge against a local medical marijuana advocate, apparently agreeing with a defense attorney’s argument that there was no evidence of for-profit criminal activity in the man’s “long-standing participation in medical collective activities.”
But at the time of his Sept. 11, 2014 arrest, Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal contended there was such evidence on the property owned by Brad Peceimer. Narcotics Task Force agents reportedly found identical sets of medical marijuana recommendations allowing cultivation at two separate sites owned by Peceimer.
“Double posting violates the state law,” Royal said at the time of the arrest. “The (county) District Attorney’s office said it’s not legal.”
Because of that determination, task force agents eradicated a marijuana garden growing outside Peceimer’s home, to eliminate one of the two growing sites in compliance with state law. Royal told The Union at the time the garden was eliminated based only on the state law’s prohibition on having two grow sites with identical medical recommendations. Royal expressed disappointment over the dismissed felony charge, telling The Union he sees an issue with smaller growers “hiding behind” medical recommendations to justify their commercial operations, suggesting that makes it difficult to prosecute illegal grows. Others have suggested the sheriff’s office should not be the entity enforcing adherence to the county ordinance, because the office is also tasked with investigating alleged criminal commercial operations.
Peceimer’s attorney said at the time of the arrest — and again after the judge dismissed the felony charge — that his client was cultivating within the confines of the law.
“Mr. Peceimer was engaged in completely lawful cultivation of medical marijuana,” Munkelt told The Union in September. “We’re confident this will be established once the case is (in) the court system.”
And, apparently with this week’s ruling, it has now been so established.
But despite the felony charge being dismissed, Peceimer does still face a misdemeanor resisting arrest charge and also had his marijuana garden eradicated. He received an abatement order to make adjustments to the second grow site, which was left intact, in order to bring it into compliance with the county’s cultivation ordinance.
That ordinance was approved 4-1 amid strong opposition in May 2012, with chants “Vote them out! Vote them out!” in the Board of Supervisors chambers. Supervisors stated a need “to get something on the ground” in advance of the grow season and that there would be room for modification to the ordinance. Last fall, more than 10,000 people signed a petition to place a measure on the November general election ballot to amend the ordinance.
Although Measure S ultimately failed to garner enough support, its demise should not be mistaken for satisfaction with the current ordinance in place.
Of course another ballot battle is already being organized over the legality of marijuana use in our society, with a likely statewide measure on the horizon for 2016 to join states who allow either medicinal and/or recreational use of cannabis.
But meanwhile, application of what is already the law seems to grow more inconsistent, and not only between the federal and state level. California counties are establishing how the law is applied in their own jurisdictions, which can impact neighboring counties — Yuba County approved an outdoor cultivation ban earlier this month — and the ability of patients to exercise their rights under the state law to obtain medicinal marijuana.
And for that reason, we believe it is time for more clarity and consistency at all levels in the drafting and application of law pertaining to marijuana, as it appears the impact of cannabis is likely to only grow in our community in coming years.
Our View represents the opinions of The Union editorial board, which is composed of members of The Union staff, as well as informed members of the community.
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