CA NORML News
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.