Supervisors getting grow house complaints – January 27, 2010

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Daniel Mintz

Eye Correspondent

HUMBOLDT – The urgency of rewriting the county’s medical marijuana ordinance has been highlighted by Fifth District Supervisor Jill Duffy, who has said that she’s getting an increasingly high volume of complaints about marijuana growing.

“I am receiving more calls than I can ever recall and it seems like they’re coming in daily, if not two to three a day,” Duffy said during her activity report at the Jan. 19 Board of Supervisors meeting.

The calls are coming from “people who are really struggling with neighbors who have indoor grows that are having huge impacts on their neighborhoods,” Duffy continued.

A Board of Supervisors subcommittee will recommend new medical marijuana regulations. The county’s current ordinance is more liberal than those of cities but it’s non-applicable now that the state’s Supreme Court has ruled that quantity limits violate Proposition 215, the state medical marijuana law.

Police action is questionable when grows are medical and Duffy said a new regulatory approach is needed to respond to complaints. “People are really feeling quite helpless in terms of what resources they have to mitigate some of the impacts,” she continued.

Supervisors Jimmy Smith and Mark Lovelace make up the board’s medical marijuana subcommittee. She asked them to agendize an update on their progress.

“I think it’s something we have to take up, given the magnitude of the complaints that are coming in,” Duffy said.

During his report, Lovelace said he also heard about marijuana issues at a Jan. 15 meeting at the Garfield School in Freshwater. “They’ve had a number of problems with grow houses right near the school,” he said, but enforcement isn’t an option.

“This falls into that difficult situation where because it’s medical, the drug-free school zone doesn’t apply any more than it does to saying someone can’t have medicine in their medicine cabinet,” Lovelace said, adding that it’s “a problem that’s larger than Humboldt County.”

Lovelace said District Attorney Paul Gallegos was also at the meeting and he discussed the status of medical marijuana laws and how marijuana cases are prosecuted.

The county’s efforts on drafting new regulations and “what we can or can’t do” was discussed by Lovelace at the Freshwater meeting.

He said that a subsequent discussion with Community Development Director Kirk Girard updated the planning department’s parallel effort. A subcommittee update will happen “within the next few weeks,” Lovelace continued.

He added that the subcommittee is emulating the City of Arcata’s wielding of land use authority.

“It really is saying (growing marijuana) is an agricultural/industrial use that’s just inappropriate in a residential area,” Lovelace said. But he added that such an approach might not work as well in the county unincorporated area.

“In Humboldt County, we have 3,600 square miles of land outside of our urban areas and so we have the other side of the coin that’s a little more difficult to get a grasp on,” said Lovelace.

In an interview, Duffy said that most of the complaints she’s heard have come from McKinleyville, Willow Creek and Arcata. The complaints fall into two categories, she continued – odor and safety concerns.

“There has been an uptick of home invasion incidents and the concern is that if someone’s growing in your neighborhood, it’s just a matter of time before somebody gets an address wrong and shows up at your doorstep,” Duffy said.

She added that people are also concerned about electrically-related fires.

Duffy supports the county’s movement toward using land use standards as a regulation tool. “As with any other activity, there will be a time, place and manner approach – it comes down to land use and zoning,” she said.

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