CA: Montague Council Discusses Pot Ordinance

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The city of Montague’s cultivation and code enforcement ordinance related to medical cannabis came up for discussion at the city council meeting on Aug. 4. Currently, the city of Montague does not allow cultivation in the city limits. The issue came to light after city council member and mayor pro-tem, Kitty Aiello revealed that she was aware of a tenant of hers growing plants for medical use with a certified medical card.

City council member Teresa Newton alleged that Aiello was violating the Brown Act by not performing her duties impartially. Newton suggested that the city council member had sworn an oath to enforce and protect the city, but by not enforcing the ordinance in the public eye she was causing a conflict of interest. John Kenny, city attorney, explained that Aiello did not violate the Brown Act.

“A conflict of interest has to do with monetary gain by using one’s official position to enhance one’s self monetarily, that generally is the essence of what conflict is. Growing would be a zoning violation. The real problem now is cultivation in the cities, which is sometimes a nuisance for neighbors and big growers in the county are wreaking havoc on the environment. There is lots of concern about that now. With respect to regulation, people say ‘I have my prop 215 rights.’ The truth of the matter is prop 215 didn’t give anybody any rights. It is a get out jail free card and is a criminal issue. Cities can do what they think is appropriate. I don’t know if that answers any problems or questions, but this is not a Brown Act or liability or conflict issue,” Kenny said.

Newton clarified that Kenny was explaining that the city could enforce the ordinance because the city is in charge of the land that the property in question is on. The councilwoman continued to explain that the city would not only end any cultivation taking place at the property in question, but the city could also fine the landlord, which would be Aiello. However, it was understood that in order to continue with enforcing a zoning violation, a citation and hearing would be part of the code enforcement process. Aiello provided those in attendance with a letter regarding her position on the marijuana ordinance for the city.

“It has been requested I answer to the public as to why I have not taken the law into my own hands to evict and remove a renter that has a medical recommendation for marijuana … I was not on City Council when this Ordinance was drafted and voted. I was on City Council during the discussions of drafting a Marijuana Ordinance earlier this year. Although no Citizen either pro or con attended these public meetings to voice their concerns or help give Council direction, I did state that I believe the current ordinance did not encompass the intent of the Citizens or Council. It was decided to allow Ordinance 17.55 to ‘ride’ until we had another meeting to address the shortfalls of this ordinance and hope for voluntary compliance. To my knowledge the Cityhas had voluntary compliance and there are no dispensaries, cooperatives, or collectives in the City of Montague. This include the citizens that rent a home form me within the City limits,” Aiello said.

Aiello argued that no cultivation is specifically under the zoning of dispensaries, but Kenny stated that he saw that no cultivation is allowed in the city. Kenny explained that if a person used medical cannabis, that was another matter, but he added that one cannot cultivate in the city, no matter the zoning regulations. Kenny did acknowledge that recreational legalization of cannabis is scheduled to be on the ballot in November, which may change the laws regarding cultivation statewide, but he mentioned that groups like the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws are currently not in favor of the way the new recreational laws are written for the California ballot.

Kenny said he believes the future of cannabis regulation is in a type of limbo.

The council noted that 16 citations had been delivered to residents believed to be growing cannabis, and another seven would be given once enforcement officers could visually see the plants. In order to go onto private property for abatement, the city would need to acquire a search warrant, according to Kenny. Newton added that 15 days from now, if those who have been given a citation do not comply, sheriff’s deputies can go in with a narcotics team and pull plants. One speaker in attendance was dismayed about the enforcement process, and he inquired as to why the city was just now enforcing an ordinance that it had in place since 2010. Kenny responded that enforcement for ordinances is often complaint driven, and the city was merely answering a slew of complaints about cultivation in the city.

No action was taken at the meeting on the matter.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Montague Council Discusses Pot Ordinance
Author: Sarah Kirby
Contact: (530) 842-5777
Photo Credit: Robyn Beck
Website: The Siskiyou Daily News