Sacramento County Votes to Ban Outdoor Grows, Will Work With Advocates Towards Indoor Regulations

The Sacramento Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to ban outdoor medical marijuana cultivation in unincorporated areas of the county, but chose not to ban indoor cultivation and rather work with advocates to develop an indoor ordinance.

The move came after Supervisor Roberta MacGlashan introduced two ordinances to ban both outdoor and indoor cultivation of medical marijuana, in a county that has also banned dispensaries. MacGlashan said her office had received “a huge number of complaints” about the strong odor of outdoor grows, citing public safety concerns and also worries about water usage, especially in this drought year.

The county as a unique ordinance on the books banning anything that is federally illegal, but the proposed ordinances sought to label marijuana plants a “nuisance” and allow them to be abated through civil code enforcement procedures via a complaint-driven process. MacGlashan stressed that penalties for violating the ordinances would be civil, although a deputy DA who testified said in some cases misdemeanors would be possible for violators.

Right away, Supervisor/Board Chair Jimmie Yee sought a definition of “outdoor” versus “indoor” grows, asking what the ordinance proposal meant by a “secure structure”: a shed, a detatched garage? At one point a sheriff’s lieutenant defined indoor as anything grown under artificial light, and county council weighed in with his interpretation that a secure, locked structure was not an indoor grow because it was not a habitable structure.

The supervisors sought to distinguish between commercial-sized grows or cartel grows on public lands or in multiple homes, and personal-use gardens, with law enforcement representatives acknowledging there was a “huge distinction” between the two, and that the complaints they receive are never about small gardens. Similarly, Brian Rice of the Sacramento Area Firefighters, who testified about the danger of fighting fires in commercial grow houses, said those dangers were negligible for small grows. The DA’s representative said his office would support an indoor ordinance that allowed for less than 10 plants. He said that his office was currently prosecuting 10 marijuana-related homicides in the county.

Supervisor Don Nottoli asked about the 25-square-foot allowance for indoor grows in Rancho Cordova. Corey Koehler of the Rental Housing Association said that his organization would be asking for an amendment to that ordinance because of complaints from his members about fires and other hazards of grows in rental properties.

Several members of the public gave testimony about medical marijuana’s importance to themselves and their family members, and the need to have an affordable supply. Ron Mullins and Bob Bowerman of Sacramento/Stockton/Modesto NORML, Marcia Blount of the Brownie Mary Democratic Club, and Ellen Komp and Dale Gieringer of California NORML also testified. Only one person testified in favor of the ban, despite the fact that her daughter uses medical marijuana for Crohn’s disease.

Lanette Davies of Crusaders for Patients Rights pointed out that in 2012, Sacramento county had 8,988 violent crimes and 31,000 property-related crimes, and so far in 2014 the county has had 77 homicides. In this context, the few violent incidents around marijuana gardens don’t seem so meaningful, she said. She also noted that Sacramento county has a large population of veterans, and that 22 veterans a day are committing suicide, while the VA has stated that veterans have a right to use medical marijuana for PTSD and pain. Davies called for line-of-sight regulations, greenhouse and lighting standards with a proactive approach to ensure safe and affordable access for all. Kimberly Cargile of A Therapeutic Alternative, a dispensary in the city of Sacramento, implored the board not to drive county residents to the black market or burden them financially by making them travel long distances to legal dispensaries in the city.

After the board voted in favor of the outdoor ban (ironically, on Earth Day), Supervisor Phil Serna moved to develop indoor regulations with the aid of county counsel, staff, and patient advocates towards “a reasonable number of plants or square footage.” The Board plans to take a second vote on the outdoor ban on May 13 and consider an amended indoor ordinance on May 28.

Also see: Sacramento County supervisors vote to ban outdoor marijuana gardens Sacramento Bee April 22, 2014

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