Tuolumne County Tables Outdoor Cultivation / Dispensary Ban

February 4, 2014 – By a vote of 5-0, the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors voted to table an ordinance that would have banned medical marijuana dispensaries and outdoor cultivation today. The board acted on the recommendation of the planning commission, which voted 6-1 to scrap their own plan after nearly 100 citizens showed up for the meeting and 20 spoke against it (with none speaking in favor).

After a presentation by Community Resources Director Bev Shane noting that California might have an initiative on the ballot in November, and state legislation was also pending in Sacramento, a motion was made and seconded to delay any action until November.

“The legal waters are muddy,” said Supervisor Randy Hanvelt. “This ordinance isn’t ready for prime time.” Hanvelt said he had received “an enormous number” of letters, emails and calls, all in opposition to the measure. Citing the county’s burden of dealing with the drought (that morning they’d declared a drought emergency) and the aftermath of the Rim Fire (initially blamed on a pot grower but later proven to be started by a hunter), Hanvelt moved to “table and revisit.”

Supervisor Rodefer called for the federal government to reschedule marijuana. “It doesn’t make sense to have it in Schedule 1,” he said, saying it prevented legitimate studies or actual prescribing.

Sara Herrin, RN of Today’s Health Collective Tuolumne then stood to ask whether local law enforcement would respect state law in the meantime, and won assurances that they would.

Supervisors Randy Hanvelt and Sherri Brennan both mentioned that they had attended a recent RCRC (Rural County Representatives of California) meeting, where the group said they might have as many as eight bills in Sacramento this year. RCRC has announced their desire for a state bill what would give counties the right to ban both dispensaries and all cultivation, indoors and out.

Fresno County has already banned all cultivation, even while the city of Live Oak’s total cultivation ban is awaiting review by the California Supreme Court. Counties are emboldened both by the Tehama ruling upholding that county’s cultivation ordinance and the Riverside case, wherein the California Supreme Court upheld a city’s right to ban dispensaries on public safety grounds.

Tuolumne county residents, including patients and the newly formed CPR group, expressed their desire and need for the county to move quickly on regulations and establish a safe harbor for patients. They urged supervisors to act on the planning commission’s recommendation to appoint a task force comprised of county officials and patient activists.

Ellen Komp, Deputy Director of California NORML rose to point out that we will certainly know by April, if not sooner, whether or not an initiative allowing for recreational marijuana use will be on the November ballot. In any case, all four of the proposed initiatives have protections for the current medical marijuana system, she noted, meaning that patients will still need to have protections at the local level.

Komp urged Supervisors to endorse AB604 (Ammiano) which would regulate collective grows at the state level. “Locals are all saying we need better state regulation, here is your chance to make that happen.” The bill would also answer the federal government’s requirement for better regulation.

After gathering the public’s input, the board voted on an amended proposal to table the ordinance only until April, and in the meantime, or at least by the summer, to get moving on a citizen task force to study the issue.

Tuolumne county, a charming gold-rush area community only 30 miles from Yosemite, is the county that prosecuted Myron Mower, leading to the landmark California Supreme Court Mower decision. The town of Tuolumne boasts marijuana lover Lord Buckley as its favorite son.

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