Live Oak spends $13K to defend medical marijuana ban
Costs to Live Oak for defending a legal challenge to the city's ban on growing medical marijuana total $13,464 — a figure the mayor says is part of the price of protecting citizens, but the resident who filed the suit calls the cost "unreal."
"We don't need to be spending money on this," resident James Maral, 39, said.
Maral said if Live Oak allowed six to 12 plants at each house, the city wouldn't hear from him.
"I would go away," said Maral.
Mayor Gary Baland said Sutter County Superior Court found in the city's favor, but that Maral has appealed the decision to the state appellate court in Sacramento. The Sutter court ruling shows the ordinance is within the city's legal authority, Baland said.
Legal challenges by medical marijuana advocates to municipal measures in California are common, he added.
"No matter what ordinance you have, people are being taken to court," the mayor said.
Baland said the measure Live Oak adopted last December followed 49 complaints by residents about marijuana grows.
City Manager Jim Goodwin said sites with tents occupied by people to protect marijuana grows were found across from Live Oak High School and near Little League baseball fields. Growers were calling the city to ask about putting up higher fences and using barbed wire to protect their property, Goodwin said. "What it represents is conflict between neighbors choosing to use their land differently," he said. "We're not passing any judgment on whether somebody uses medical marijuana."
Maral said he opposes irresponsible growers whose greed leads them to large gardens that spur objections by neighbors.
"The growers are the people messing it up for the patients," he said.
Maral, who said he uses marijuana after an accident crushed his leg and blew out six discs in his back, said a severe medical condition his mother has requires that she use the drug as well. The city's ban on growing medical marijuana has helped send her to the hospital, Maral said.
He appeared at the Oct. 17 meeting of the City Council, provided a photograph of his hospitalized mother and said, "This is your work."
Jason Banks, a council candidate in the Tuesday election and a medical marijuana user since a 2001 work accident that crushed his back, questioned Live Oak's legal costs to defend the ban.
"It's essentially wasted money," Banks said. "There are so many other things that we need to do.
"I'd be surprised it ends there," he said of the $13,000 spent so far. "I don't think this is going away."
Maral is driving around the community with signs urging voters to oppose Baland and Councilman Rob Klotz. He said he will extend his opposition to other council members if necessary.
"They say they care about Live Oak," Maral added of city officials, "but they only care about the rich people or people in the church."
Attorneys Brant Bordsen, representing the city, and John Fuery, representing Maral, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
CONTACT Ryan McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4780. Find him on Facebook at /ADrmccarthy or on Twitter at @ADrmccarthy.