County’s Cannabis Grow Regs Not Being Used – March 10, 2012

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Daniel Mintz

Eye Correspondent

HUMBOLDT – The county’s medical marijuana ordinance for indoor growing seeks to address nuisances but after more than two months of being in effect, there’s been no need for its enforcement.

County Administrative Officer Phillip Smith-Hanes told the Board of Supervisors at its Feb. 28 meeting that he’s checked with planning staff, code enforcement staff and the Sheriff’s Office and learned that no enforcement actions have been taken for violations of the ordinance.

Nor have there been any neighborhood complaints that would lead to an enforcement action, Smith-Hanes continued, answering a question from Supervisor Virginia Bass.

Approved Last December, the ordinance sets a 50 square feet per residence maximum on indoor medical growing space. It is dramatically more restrictive than the former ordinance, which allowed a 100 square feet per patient maximum.

The new ordinance has been described as being responsive to marijuana-related neighborhood nuisances.

Also in the works is an outdoor cultivation ordinance, which Smith-Hanes said is now in draft form and being reviewed by himself and the county’s legal staff. Supervisors had asked that work on it be expedited to allow for approval prior to the start of the outdoor growing season, which begins in May.

Supervisors also asked for development of “interim measures” so Smith-Hanes presented a list of “six steps to resolve neighborhood impacts of medical marijuana cultivation.”

To deal with problematic growers, people are advised to talk with them, call a neighborhood meeting, enlist a mediator, file a nuisance case in small claims court or, finally, to call police if a violation of medical marijuana law is suspected.

Supervisor Ryan Sundberg has called attention to the impacts of outdoor grows in his district, particularly in Willow Creek, and questioned whether the measures are effective.

“They just don’t work for a lot of people,” he said. “I’ve heard of neighbors being scared of retaliation, so it needs to come from some other place, from the Sheriff’s Department or some other place that deflects the glare off of them.”

But Supervisor Jimmy Smith related a “drug house” nuisance case in his district that occurred years ago in which neighbors got results from filing a small claims lawsuit.

When Supervisor Mark Lovelace read the list, “My first thought was, I really would like to send this to the U.S. attorney and the Department of Justice with a thank you letter for giving us such powerful tools for addressing these problems,” he said.

“This is what we’re left with without the ability to regulate this industry,” he continued.

Lovelace added that people should be aware that medical marijuana can be grown legally. “Unfortunately, it parks the burden of proof on demonstrating that it’s an illegal grow, rather than being able to just come in and say, ‘They’re growing and therefore knock it off,’” he said.

Bass said the measures can actually be used to resolve a variety of nuisance situations. “Government is not always the best tool,” she continued.


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