Nevada Co. marijuana: Stakeholders continue work on interim ordinance
NEVADA CITY, Calif. — Supervisors are almost two weeks away from a scheduled vote on an interim medical marijuana grow ordinance, the next step after the June 7 failure of Measure W.
The number of plants that will be allowed under the interim ordinance, as well as other key details, remains undecided.
Grow advocates involved in crafting the ordinance have slightly different recommendations about the number of plants county supervisors should permit. They largely agree on which zones should allow medical marijuana grows.
Growers have asked for 25 to 50 plants on anywhere from two to 20 acres. In contrast, the county has suggested a maximum of 16 plants on 20 or more acres.
“I think we’ve already compromised,” said Patricia Smith, president of the Nevada County chapter of Americans for Safe Access.
Smith and other growers will return to county offices this Tuesday, July 12, to continue discussions on an interim grow ordinance. County attorneys would like to have a rough draft available by the ad hoc committee meeting, but it’s not certain that the draft will be ready.
The interim ordinance must be ready at least 72 hours before the Board of Supervisors’ July 26 meeting, when they’re scheduled to vote on its approval and rescind an existing ban on outdoor grows.
Once implemented, county officials and growers will craft a permanent grow ordinance, which could take another year.
Jonathan Collier, chairman of the Nevada County California Growers Association, said he wants an interim ordinance that shows good faith on the county’s part that it is leaving behind an eradication mentality.
“The plant counts that we offered are negotiable,” he added.
Collier’s group and others also address CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act. The act requires local governments to identify environmental impacts and mitigate them, if necessary.
County counsel at the last meeting indicated large grows could trigger CEQA and lead to lawsuits.
The California Growers Association states that regulation would reduce environmental impacts and that a CEQA complaint would only hamper solutions. The interim ordinance should include a CEQA exemption, which existed in the county’s previous two marijuana ordinances.
The No on W Committee states that the best method of addressing environmental concerns is to create a permitting system that aligns with the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, the statewide law passed last year.
Mark Schaefer, chairman of the No on W Committee, wants an interim ordinance that affects the largest number of people. He would like the interim ordinance to permit the current actions of a majority of growers, legitimizing them while simultaneously ensuring neighbors aren’t negatively impacted.
Schaefer echoed an argument Collier has made — the ordinance should provide growers a reason to invest in their future. The chance of complying with the law should encourage people to use better, and safer, cultivation methods and avoid the dangers of illegal grows.
It’s not certain supervisors will adopt the ordinance. Because it’s an urgency ordinance, meaning it would become effective immediately, it must receive votes from four of five supervisors to pass. If that fails, then the existing outdoor grow ban and 12-plant indoor limitation remains in effect.
Supervisor Nate Beason, who serves on the ad hoc committee, said he feels an ordinance that expands cultivation beyond what’s previously been allowed would fail.
“My impression is, and I’m not speaking for the board, is we need an ordinance that’s straightforward, enforceable and will be enforced,” Beason said. “We’ve got to protect the neighborhoods. That’s number one.”
Smith said securing four supervisor votes is a real concern. She wants supervisors to “reframe” their thinking when crafting the ordinance, though she concedes she’ll likely have to compromise.
Her group has asked for allowing three to six plants on some residential properties, if they’re in a greenhouse and the county and neighbors approve.
Collier’s group also wants residential grows, noting they should conform with the state’s regulatory system and be restricted to 100 square feet. No collective cultivation should be allowed in residential zones.
The No on W Committee recommends no residential cultivation.
The three groups support grows in Residential Agricultural, General Agricultural, Exclusive Agricultural and Forest zones.
“We’re just going to have to see what comes out of this next meeting,” Beason said.