Pot growers call changes superficial in Yuba County ordinance
WHAT HAPPENED: Yuba County supervisors approved the introduction on Tuesday of amendments to the public nuisance ordinance for medical marijuana.
WHAT'S NEXT: Supervisors could vote to formally adopt the amendments at their July 10 meeting.
Yuba County is still fine-tuning its ordinance to define when medical marijuana growing is a public nuisance, but to growers, the message is horribly off key.
While supervisors approved introduction of three ordinance amendments Tuesday, an attorney representing local growers said bigger issues remain unsolved while law enforcement has begun enforcement.
"The real issue of affecting collective grows hasn't been addressed," said attorney Jonathan Finegold of Camptonville. "We had been hoping the board would enact an amendment more quickly, but maybe we'll need some legal action to hurry things up."
What supervisors approved Tuesday, he said, were mostly superficial issues, though also ones growers were concerned about.
One amendment changes language to make it clear growing is allowed in the county's more hilly stretches, while another clarifies a grow as a possible nuisance when it can be seen from the ground, but not the air or even a second-story window.
The last amendment allows collective grows as long as at least one plant at the site is prescribed for the person or caregiver who lives there.
Tuesday's vote was only to introduce the changes as they won't go into effect until the board votes to do so at its July 10 meeting. The amendments came out of ongoing talks between growers and an ad hoc committee of two supervisors studying the issue, with more talks planned.
But with those supervisors, John Nicoletti and Mary Jane Griego, absent from Tuesday's meeting, Supervisor Hal Stocker said he too felt more work was needed.
"I think anything done today is going to see substantial change in the future," Stocker said before voting against the amendments' introduction, which passed on a 2-1 vote.
As with past discussions of the issue, the board also heard impassioned words on the harm the ordinance would cause, though many of opponents now centered on the particulars rather than the ordinance in general.
Kathie Thelen, who said she has a collective grow for nine medical marijuana patients, said the issue would be better addressed if residents just talked to each other.
"People don't talk to their neighbors anymore," she said, referring to how the ordinance came about as a result of hundreds of complaints to law enforcement. "I agree that education is really needed here."
But speaker Karen Liggett, wearing a shirt bearing the words, "love yourself not drugs," said the ordinance was overdue.
"We don't want it. We don't want the smell," she said of marijuana.
After the vote, Finegold said two issues still need clarification: Whether enforcement of the ordinance would be complaint driven, as growers would want, and whether collectives could grow in numbers currently disallowed under the ordinance.
But even then, another man who spoke said he would still have an issue.
"I can't afford to be part of a collective," said Charles Boutt, who grows in Olivehurst. "I need to be able to grow it myself. What about us small-parcel growers?"
CONTACT Ben van der Meer at email@example.com or 749-4786. Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer.