CA: Supervisors Reject Medical Marijuana Bans

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After nearly three hours of staff reports, public comment and board discussion Tuesday, Aug. 16, county supervisors declined to pass urgency ordinances that would have temporarily restricted the cultivation of medical marijuana and prohibited dispensaries in Plumas County.

Instead, the board plans to form a working committee made up of two supervisors, one or two planning commissioners and two public members.

Board chairperson Sherrie Thrall said she wanted the committee to “move as quickly as government can move.”

“We don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” she said, referring to other California counties that have adopted ordinances regulating cultivation of medical marijuana.

Approximately 125 people crowded into the Mineral Building at the county fairgrounds in Quincy for the hearing. Most who spoke during public comment urged the supervisors to reject the bans.

Harry Rogers, of the Plumas County Growers Coalition, said marijuana cultivation helped diversify farming. “It’s already part of the county’s economy, worth thousands of dollars,” he said. The county already has a reputation for “top-shelf product,” he said. The county should seize this “once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Cindy Robinson, of Riverside Rock, said her business sold soil and amendments to growers. She favored ordinances that would establish taxes and licensing fees. “We shouldn’t react out of fear,” she said. “It’s not the growers’ fault (the) planning (department) hasn’t built an ordinance.”

Others expressed concerns. Planning director Randy Wilson said his office had received several code compliance complaints about a grower.

One neighbor attended the Aug. 9 board of supervisors meeting to comment on the issue, rather than attend the public hearing because she feared “increased hostility to me and my family” from the grower.

Her concerns included odors, pollution, loss of property value and increased crime. She said she supported “sensible and safe regulation.”

Jody Johnson said that as a nurse she believes “in the therapeutic benefits of marijuana,” but she was “not in favor of growing operations in residential neighborhoods.”

Sheriff Greg Hagwood, who supported the bans, said he had no problem with medical marijuana, but his office was “increasingly seeing individuals behaving selfishly, recklessly, irresponsibly, wrecking it for everyone.”

District Attorney Dave Hollister opposed the bans. “I firmly believe we can come up with an ordinance to meet the needs of all citizens,” he said. “This doesn’t do it.”

Among the issues that should be addressed, he said, were indoor versus outdoor cultivation, location and enforcement. “We’re not recouping our costs,” Hollister said.

The discussion was largely a replay of a Jan. 26 hearing. At the end of that meeting, supervisors voted unanimously to turn the matter over to the county planning commission for review and recommendations.

Almost seven months later, the review and recommendations have not materialized.

Supervisor Lori Simpson said she felt the board owed everyone an apology. After the January meeting, “I thought we were going to have an ordinance. I’ve been frustrated with the planning commission. I know it’s short of people and trying to get people.”

“We need to find balance,” she said, “and I’d like to see the Board of Supervisors take this back from the planning commission.”

Lane Labbe, of the New England Ranch, asks Plumas supervisors if they want “a healthy agricultural economy in this county” during public comment at a hearing Tuesday, Aug. 16, on proposed medical marijuana ordinances. Labbe said every suggestion he had made to county planners had been “rebuffed or ignored. I’d like an answer.”
The crowd burst into applause at her final comment.

“I thought the same thing,” Thrall said.

“I’m ready to get my hands dirty,” Supervisor Kevin Goss said. “We need an ordinance sooner rather than later that speaks to everyone here.”

The local discussions come as state rules continue to shift. At the time the January hearing was scheduled, the county faced a March 1 deadline to adopt marijuana cultivation ordinances or be forced to adopt the state’s rules.

A week before the January meeting, the state adopted a bill that removed the March 1 deadline.

Then in late June, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law revisions to the state’s medical marijuana act, further complicating the issue.

Voters will have a chance to legalize recreational marijuana via a ballot measure, Proposition 64, in November.

Quincy resident Joseph Muñoz said at last week’s meeting, “If medical marijuana has been surprising and disconcerting, lord knows what we’ll face after November.”

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Supervisors Reject Medical Marijuana Bans
Author: Delaine Fragnoli
Contact: (530) 283-0800
Photo Credit: Delaine Fragnoli
Website: Plumas County News