UKIAH, Aug. 7th, 2007. In a hard-fought victory for marijuana advocates, the Mendocino Board of  Supervisors voted 3-2 to uphold the county's 25-plant limit for medical marijuana cultivation.   The vote was decided by  the fact that 25 plants was set as the standard for personal use in  Measure G, the Personal Use of Marijuana Initiative, approved by 58%  of voters in 2000.  This in turn helped win the key support of  the county counsel, DA Meredith Lintott, and  Sheriff Tom Allman,  who remarked that 25 plants was the only number consistent with  all laws - Prop 215, SB 420 and Measure G.
            A recurrent theme in the day's debate was the need to curb abuses  by Mendo's many commercial "caregiver" gardeners claiming to serve  multiple patients.   Numerous witnesses expressed fear of abusive MMJ  gardeners, among them Sup. Michael Delbar's daughter, who testified  to the unpleasantness of a neighborhood caregiver gardener who had  walled off his property with an 8-foot tall fence  and guarded it  with a nasty Rotweiler.  In a tip to the new "Reefer Madness,"  Sup.  Wattenburger mentioned that he had just returned from Canada, where  he had become troubled by  reports of new studies showing a link  between marijuana and mental illness.  Wattenburger joined Delbar in  proposing that the county adopt the state limit of 6 plants.  Opponents repeatedly asserted without evidence or personal experience  that one plant yields one pound of marijuana.      
            Sup. Jim Colfax cut through the BS by observing that 25 plants  was the law under Measure G, and that reducing it to 6 plants would  do nothing to fix the  problem of abusive caregiver gardens, which  typically run into scores or hundreds of plants.
            Sup. John Pinches, a proponent of legalization, offered a  far-reaching plan to regulate MMJ gardens. "Like it or not, marijuana  is here to stay," he said, "we need to find a way to bring it into  the loop." He proposed that gardens be limited to 25 plants per  parcel.  Larger caregiver gardens would have to apply for county  approval.   He likened  the situation to other agricultural products  such as chickens - anyone can have a few on their property ( at least  in Mendocino County), but large farms need to go through permitting.  He also proposed a $25/plant fee for outdoor plants and $15 for  indoor plants.   While Pinches' plan needs further  work,  not having gone through committee yet, Cal NORML believes it offers a promising long-term approach to regulating  MMJ grows.    
             Sup. Pinches also proposed using an area-based limit of 150  square feet instead of 25 plants for indoor gardens, but no one  supported him.  Sheriff Allman recently abandoned an earlier policy  that had allowed 100 square feet of canopy as an alternative to 25  plants.
                Earlier in the day, Sheriff Allman announced his innovative new  zip-tie program for medical marijuana gardens.  The zip ties are  being made available at sheriff's offices  to all Mendo patients with  state ID cards.  Each patient may have up to 25 zip ties to mark his  or her plants;  the patient may pass the zip-ties on to a caregiver,  but caregivers can't obtain them from the sheriff directly.   Each  zip tie bears a serial #, which is registered to the patients' state  ID card number.      Allman said he would count the program a success  if 25% of the county's 1700 registered patients participated.  Although the zip-ties are presently free, next year the county hopes  to charge $25 per zip tie.  MMJ proponents are concerned that such  fees would be unduly burdensome for patients. However, they are  highly appreciative of the Sheriff's good-faith efforts to  accommodate Prop. 215.
               Yesterday's developments kept Mendocino on the forefront of MJ  reform. The Supervisors refused to move backwards;  the Sheriff's  office introduced an innovative program;  and Sup. Pinches offered a  useful proposal for further progress.       

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