Yuba County OKs medical pot law; lawsuit possible
Medical marijuana growers in Yuba County now have 30 days to get straight, in a manner of speaking, with a newly passed ordinance stipulating when such grows are deemed a public nuisance.
Despite the ordinance passing the Board of Supervisors on a 5-0 vote on Tuesday, the fact two of the first three speakers on the topic were attorneys, suggested the matter will move next to a courtroom.
"I think it's flawed, it's poorly written and it's unconstitutional," said Jeffrey Lake, a San Diego attorney who specializes in medical marijuana law and warned the board against adoption. "I would not be surprised at all if a lawsuit is filed after 30 days."
The ordinance, which on its second reading and adoption again drew a packed house of more than 100 people to largely oppose it, will take effect on June 1. Under it, outdoor growing is considered a nuisance if it isn't confined to a defined space relative to the size of the parcel, and kept largely out of sight.
A plethora of speakers in opposition gave various reasons for why it shouldn't proceed, including a woman who said medical marijuana helped her stop abusing prescription drugs, a civil engineer who said a third of his business was with people setting up grow sites and a mother whose son was in Yuba County jail over his grow site in Linda.
"I was a doctor shopper, and when I got off those pills and onto medical marijuana, I stopped doctor shopping," said Kathie Thelen. "Your limits are not consistent with my needs."
Perhaps mindful of a slip of paper handed out by the Yuba County Growers Association encouraging civility, the audience was collectively calmer at this hearing compared to one in April, if no less emotional about the issue.
"We can't tell farmers, put the cows away because of manure smells," said Michael McCaulley, a consultant on medical marijuana from Sacramento County. He referred to frequent complaints of marijuana odor that partially led county officials to begin crafting an ordinance. "It's just simple fact."
Supervisor John Nicoletti, who was a member of an ad hoc committee that met with growers to try to write an ordinance they could live with, told the audience they had to look at the bigger picture.
"You can't take that many calls for concern and not address it," he said. The Yuba County Sheriff's Department received more than 200 such complaint calls for marijuana growing last year.
And all five supervisors agreed to continue discussing the issue, also voting unanimously to continue the ad hoc committee through the end of the year.
But the next act may come sooner. County Counsel Angil Morris-Jones, in response to a question from the board, said she felt the ordinance would hold up in court.
"Anyone can sue," she added. "But suing and winning are two different things."
After the vote, though, Lake said he couldn't agree with her conclusion, citing the ordinance's vagueness, incompatibility with state law and unconstitutional provisions as reasons why.
"They were trying to create a law, and they invited no lawyers," he said.
CONTACT Ben van der Meer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4786. Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer.