Yuba pot ordinance fails for lack of majority vote
WHAT HAPPENED: Yuba County supervisors failed to approve an ordinance on medical marijuana growing Tuesday, with a 2-2 vote and one member absent.
WHAT'S NEXT: The board formed an ad hoc committee to study the issue further, with a report to the board within a month.
Yuba County is virtually back at the beginning on crafting an ordinance over medical marijuana, after the first reading of a proposed ordinance died Tuesday for the lack of a majority on a 2-2 vote, with one county supervisor absent.
The vote followed a lengthy public hearing on the issue, with many growers saying what was proposed didn’t take their concerns into account.
That led Supervisor Mary Jane Griego to call for an ad hoc committee of two supervisors to study the issue further and report back to the full board within a month’s time, after consultation with growers, county law enforcement and community development.
“I think this ordinance gets close, but there’s still work to be done,” she said.
The proposed ordinance, brought at the behest of county residents both bothered by the smell of growing marijuana and concerned for public safety over robberies at grow houses, tried to define what level of marijuana growing would constitute a public nuisance.
Drafted by county Community Services and Development Director Kevin Mallen in consultation with legal and law enforcement opinions, the ordinance would’ve defined a public nuisance as growing more than six plants on a one-acre lot. Growing would also need to be indoors or shielded from view and done on property with a habitable residence.
Greater amounts of plants could be grown on larger parcels of land, to a maximum of 30 plants on parcels 20 acres or greater. At all levels, growers would be subject to the same restrictions on visibility as well as distance from neighbors.
The county would’ve enforced the ordinance through complaints to its code enforcement officers, with penalties including fines of up to $100 a day for those out of compliance.
But more than a dozen speakers who identified themselves as county residents, medical marijuana patients or both said the ordinance would directly harm them.
“My point is, you’re trying to get between a doctor and a patient,” said Tom Miles, a Linda resident. “We’re not at war with anyone. Just don’t try to put your perspective on anyone else’s.”
Speakers pointed out the six-plant restriction for people living in a home or apartment, for example, wouldn’t be enough for patients who make butter out of marijuana oil. Others said it would be expensive and problematic to set up growing indoors, and it would also be easy to plant six but end up with less in case of disease or pests.
Those who favored the ordinance also spoke up, telling supervisors they were tired of being inundated by the smell of marijuana in their neighborhoods, and fearing worse.
Tim Coffman, a Browns Valley resident, said he could strongly smell marijuana recently when he walked his children to their classroom, past “No on Drugs” posters.
“I think that something needs to be done,” he said. “It needs to be sharpened, it needs to be defined. It’s out of control.”
Growers, including members of the Yuba County Growers Association, said they wanted to work with the county on an ordinance, and were disappointed the county hadn’t done so after earlier offers of help.
The discussion seemed to convince Griego more work was needed, and she called for the committee and pushing back further consideration of the ordinance for 30 days.
But Supervisor Roger Abe proposed moving the ordinance forward to be heard again for final adoption next week, noting the ordinance wouldn’t take effect until 30 days after that. A delay would harm growers who are on the verge of planting, he said.
Both Abe and Supervisor Andy Vasquez voted to move the ordinance ahead, with Griego and board Chairman Hal Stocker voting against. Supervisor John Nicoletti was not at the meeting. He could not immediately be reached for comment.
After the vote, Griego said she wouldn’t join an ad hoc committee with Vasquez, because she believed he had a preconceived notion on the issue, and suggested Nicoletti served with Vasquez instead.
Vasquez has publicly dismissed the concept of medical marijuana in the past, and brought a speaker before the board who spoke of its negative effects.
Before the vote, though, Vasquez said he was bringing up an issue his constituents felt strongly about.
“My neighbors and people in my district need some help,” he said of the ordinance. “I think this is a good start.”
CONTACT Ben van der Meer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4786. Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer.