Medical marijuana: Nevada Co. supes adopt new grow rules amid criticism
NEVADA COUNTY, Calif. — Nevada County supervisors on Tuesday voted 4 to 1 to adopt new medical marijuana regulations, tweaking the proposed rules after a contentious back-and-forth discussion with grow advocates.
Supervisor Ed Scofield opposed the vote. The grow regulations required four-fifths of supervisors to approve. They become effective immediately.
The vote establishes interim grow rules and repeals the outdoor grow ban established Jan. 12 by the supervisors. The ordinance, which will be followed in several months by permanent grow rules, allows grows with a maximum of 25 plants on parcels over 20 acres, in specific zones.
Supervisor Hank Weston tweaked the original ordinance, adding up to six outdoor plants on residential agricultural rural land designations between 2 to 5 acres, if within 300 contiguous square feet.
Weston’s changes also allow indoor grows in all zones for another three months. After that time no grows will be allowed in residential areas, though both indoor and outdoor gardens are permitted in certain rural areas.
“This is totally new from what was brought here,” Scofield said of Weston’s additions. “You start making these changes and I can’t support it.”
The vote came after almost three hours of public comment and another hour of supervisor discussion that periodically resulted in angry back-and-forth retorts between ordinance supporters and detractors.
At one point, after Supervisor Dan Miller said he’d end the public comment, a man approached the board and said they’d have to arrest him if they refused to let him speak.
Miller then ordered a brief recess after the man spoke, and allowed several more to talk before ending the public comment. He said 52 people spoke.
Grow supporters argued that supervisors failed to obey voters’ wishes by implementing grow regulations some called more restrictive than the outdoor grow ban. Supporters of the ordinance asked the board to consider the county’s youth, and the nuisance they say marijuana creates, when crafting new grow rules.
Most of the grow advocates who served on the marijuana subcommittee that helped draft the interim ordinance blasted the supervisors.
“This thing is full of poison pills,” said Patricia Smith, chairwoman of the Nevada County chapter of Americans for Safe Access. “It cannot be followed.”
According to Smith, she must have a 200-foot setback on her 10-acre property. The setbacks overlap by 75 feet, meaning she can’t grow.
“This ordinance is a farce,” she added.
Mark Schaefer, chairman of the No on W Committee, questioned the county’s decision to increase plant count but limit the square footage where plants can grow. He said the ordinance didn’t appear to be a compromise.
James DeVinny, also with No on W, said he was bullied as a child. The board’s Jan. 12 vote to ban outdoor grows and limit indoor grows to 12 plants felt like the bully had returned.
It led him to help form the No on W Committee, which he said registered thousands of people to vote.
Measure W, which would have cemented the outdoor grow ban and 12-plant indoor limitation, failed by about 60 to 40 percent.
“I’m here to tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear,” DeVinny said, echoing Miller, who said similar words at an April marijuana forum.
“If you think the No on W campaign was well organized, you haven’t seen anything yet,” DeVinny added.
Forrest Hurd, father of a 9-year-old child with intractable epilepsy who uses medical marijuana, noted that cultivation can only occur on the property of a patient or caregiver.
It provides no allowance for third-party cultivation, an argument County Counsel Alison Barratt-Green later disputed.
“I do think there are a lot of misconceptions out there,” Barratt-Green said.
Hurd argued that medical marijuana is a science-based treatment, and that supervisors continued to operate under a 1940’s mentality.
“If you think nothing can be done, come and hold one of these babies,” Hurd said. “You tell them, ‘Someone, somewhere is diverting water and there’s nothing that can be done.’”
Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, said he doesn’t want to encourage the commercialization of marijuana in Nevada County.
“It’s already here,” he said. “We want to regulate it.
“The penalty approach has not and will not work,” Allen added.
The ordinance calls for a $100 fine per plant, per day for the first violation. The second violation would be $200 per plant, per day and the third violation would warrant a $500 fine for each plant.
The county would impose similar fines for safety and building code violations.
The fines become effective Jan. 1.
Don Bessee, executive director of Smart Approaches to Marijuana of Nevada County, asked if the fines could become effective immediately. He also suggested requiring growers to register with the county.
Anthony Halby, with the Nevada County Law Enforcement and Fire Protection Council, said he moved 30 years ago to Nevada County for its quality of life. He strongly opposes drugs and supports the county’s interim ordinance.
“Drug money can buy corruption,” Halby said. “Drug money can buy intimidation. Drug money can buy elections. I think that’s what we have to fear in this county.”
James Henderson said he opposes any marijuana cultivation, and asked supervisors if they believe growers will comply with any new law. He argued marijuana grows would lead to more access and exposure to the drug.
Fran Freedle, another ordinance supporter, said she wishes the county would have focused more on the California Environmental Quality Act, known as CEQA.
The county exempted its new ordinance from CEQA, which it did with its previous grow ordinances.
“It’s clear — marijuana should not be grown outdoors in residential areas,” Freedle said.
Alan Riquelmy is a staff writer with The Union newspaper, a sister paper of the Sierra Sun that serves Nevada City, Grass Valley and other communities in the Sierra Foothills.