Yuba City pursuing ban on growing pot in open backyards
WHAT HAPPENED: A majority of Yuba City city council members said they wanted to ban growing medical marijuana outdoors, but allow it indoors with restrictions.
WHAT'S NEXT: City staff will draft an ordinance based on city manager Steve Jepsen's recommendations and return with it at the council's March 20 meeting.
Medical marijuana patients in Yuba City will probably have to cram their operations indoors, something they said would block their access to affordable medicine.
Four Yuba City City Council members at a Tuesday night workshop said they wanted to ban residents from growing medical marijuana unless they do it inside their homes or greenhouses.
Growers would also have to confine their plants to within a 50-square-foot plot, enough space to grow four plants easily or six if they squeeze them in, said City Manager Steve Jepsen, who recommended banning outdoor grows, but allowing them indoors with restrictions.
"The backyard grows scare me," said Paul Rogers, of Yuba City. "If you have a gold mine in your backyard, it's going to attract crime."
Robbers and prowlers worry John Dukes, who was the lone councilman pushing for an outright ban on growing.
"We don't need (violence) in our neighborhoods. We need safe neighborhoods," he said. "Bullets don't know property lines."
Tej Maan said he thought the council also had a responsibility to be compassionate and give patients access to medicine that helps them cope with painful, debilitating ailments.
"Where are they supposed to get it?" Maan said of medical marijuana. "You can't go out and buy it. The dispensaries are closing down. You have to grow it."
Jepsen's ordinance will prevent some patients from growing because pushing cultivation indoors jacks up the cost, said Eric Salerno, a medical marijuana activist with Americans for Safe Access.
Building a greenhouse covering 50 square feet sells for $200 to $300, Salerno said before Tuesday's meeting. On top of that, growers need lighting, which costs hundreds of dollars to set up and $100 to $150 in monthly electricity costs. A filtration system to eliminate the plant's smell fetches $300 to get running while new filters run $150 a year, Salerno said.
"Growing indoors is so expensive," he said. "Some of the patients are disabled and on a limited income. Three hundred dollars isn't something they can afford."
Beau Green is one of them. He grows 25 plants for his father, but said he'll have to stop if he can't do it outside.
"I can't afford to grow indoors," Green said, adding that he is not alone. "I don't think this addresses the majority of the patients' needs in Yuba City."
Green said he couldn't think of another affordable way to get medical marijuana.
About 20 residents showed up to the meeting, most of them patients who grow and use medical marijuana.
Most of them urged the council to go back to the drawing board and continue to work on an ordinance that would allow outdoor grows.
Growers will have to meet other requirements if the council passes an ordinance based on the recommendation's Jepsen presented.
They would have to have a doctor's recommendation to use medical marijuana or be caring for someone who had one. Either the patient or the caregiver would have to live in Yuba City, a restriction Jepsen hopes will cut down on out-of-town growers.
"I don't want us to become a bastion of medical marijuana grows in California," he said.
Grows couldn't be within 1,000 feet of schools, libraries or parks. Greenhouses and backyard fences would have to have locks.
No evidence of marijuana cultivation could show from the street.
If growers don't comply, they'll face stiff penalties if the council adopts Jepsen's recommendation. The city would charge growers with a misdemeanor for breaking the law, a violation that could include a six-month jail term and a $500 fine for a first offense. The city would slap repeat offenders with $1,000 fines each day.
Said Jepsen: "The value of the crop is such that the fine has to be significant."
CONTACT reporter Jonathan Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4780. Find him on Facebook at /ADjedwards or on Twitter at @ADjedwards.