Ad hoc pot group to brainstorms ideas for Nevada Co. regulations | SierraSun.com

Ad hoc pot group to brainstorms ideas for Nevada Co. regulations

A look at some medical marijuana.

NEVADA CITY, Calif. — Nevada County supervisors and medical marijuana advocates last week sketched a broad outline for new grow regulations, the first step toward crafting a new ordinance after the primary election defeat of Measure W.

Supervisors and grow advocates, previously on opposite sides of the marijuana issue, emphasized their desire to work together when developing interim and long-term ordinances.

Supervisor Nate Beason, leading the June 15 meeting, said he wanted to hear suggestions from growers about the shape those new regulations should take. All concurred the interim ordinance should be simple, straightforward and enforceable.

Grow advocates had plenty of ideas how to make that work.

A 5,000-square-foot grow limitation, restricting grows to specific zones, no grows in residential areas and a plant limit were a few suggestions offered by grow advocates.

County attorneys now will take those ideas, discuss them internally and return to the ad hoc committee on June 27 with concepts for further discussion.

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"We want to be quick, but we want to get it right," Beason said.

The June 15 meeting stemmed from the June 7 defeat of Measure W, which if passed would have banned outdoor medical marijuana grows and limited indoor grows to 12 plants.

A similar, supervisor-imposed ban currently is in effect. Supervisors have said they would repeal that ban if Measure W failed, once elections officials certified the vote.

Officials have until July 7 to certify. Supervisors said they want to replace their ban with an interim ordinance on July 26, the only regular meeting they have that month.

Patricia Smith, president of the Nevada County chapter of Americans for Safe Access, urged a quick transition to the interim ordinance. She noted patients need to plant their cannabis before late July.

"The faster we can get this through, the better," she added. "We're already in a crunch, and I don't want to see it become worse."

It appears unlikely any change would occur before July 26. Attorneys must craft a draft ordinance before finalizing a document that can garner the votes of at least four of five supervisors. That four-fifths vote is required to pass an urgency ordinance, which would become effectively immediately.

Foregoing an urgency ordinance would require a first and second reading of the new regulations, occurring in meetings over July and August. Passage of that ordinance in August wouldn't lift the ban until September.

County officials and grow advocates brainstormed different elements for an interim ordinance.

Jonathan Collier, chairman of the Nevada County California Growers Association, pointed to precincts that supported Measure W, noting they are in residential areas. He suggested grows should instead be located in agricultural zones, not near homes.

Smith said patients should have the ability to grow some plants at their homes. If neighbors opposed the outdoor plants, then the county would prohibit the grow, she suggested.

Mark Schaefer, chairman of the No on W Committee, said he wanted an ordinance that gave the largest number of people the option of becoming compliant.

He said the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, statewide marijuana regulations passed last year, allow for grows of up to 5,000 square feet.

Alison Barratt-Green, county counsel, noted that changing from a complete outdoor ban to allowing grows of 5,000 square feet would create a sudden, massive shift.

The committee made no decision on June 15 on which ideas would become part of the interim or long-term ordinance.

"We're going to have more stakeholder meetings," Beason assured the group.

The committee also discussed the meaning of phrases like "bad actor," words used by both sides in the ongoing community discussion about marijuana.

Schaefer asked what others believed made a bad actor, saying he considers someone who uses rat poison fits the definition. Collier said those who divert marijuana to minors, steal water and use illegal pesticides are bad actors.

Barratt-Green asked how the ordinance should address irresponsible growers.

"That is the ultimate question," she said.

After the meeting, Collier praised the committee, saying he'd inform his members of Tuesday's progress.

"I think things went great," Collier said. "Everyone was very civil.

"We understand that it's going to be a process," he added moments later.