Sutter County tightens medical pot rules
A medical marijuana ordinance for Sutter County will take awhile longer to go into effect after supervisors Tuesday approved amendments making it stricter.
After hearing from both pro- and anti-medical marijuana sides, supervisors passed amendments that will force a rewritten ordinance to have another first reading at a future meeting.
As originally conceived, the ordinance would have allowable limits on the number of plants one could grow, starting at 12 mature plants on parcels less than 20 acres, with higher limits for bigger parcels.
But an amendment approved by four supervisors with one absent would instead make the limit for 12 mature plants apply to all size parcels. Another amendment, also approved 4-0, would require growing on parcels of less than 20 acres to be either indoors or in ventilated greenhouses.
"We're going to do the least invasive ordinance we can and not also create a nuisance to people," Supervisor Stan Cleveland said.
Because it defines medical marijuana grows in some circumstances as a public nuisance, the ordinance is comparable to how one might deal with a stinky goat versus several stinky goats, said William Vanasek, an attorney in the county counsel's office.
Sutter County's original ordinance was based on one passed in Tehama County, which has also seen the ordinance upheld on an initial court challenge. But one of the speakers on Tuesday said he would caution against supervisors believing the ordinance they were drafting was bulletproof.
"I'm sorry, but it isn't over until it goes to the California Supreme Court," said John Fuerry, an attorney from Berkeley who advocates for medical marijuana. "We're going to take this as far as we have to, to make sure patients are protected."
Another speaker, James Maral of Live Oak, said the ordinance would have the effect of denying sick people medicine.
But medical marijuana growers are themselves denying rights, others said.
Wayne Martin of Yuba City said he can't enjoy his $40,000 backyard during the summer because of the smell of neighboring pot plants is so strong.
"I just hope the people that are sick keep us in mind," Maral said.
Under the ordinance, the limits on the numbers of plants could be challenged by a grower who had a doctor's recommendation for more, at an appeals hearing.
The board did not set a date for when the ordinance would be heard again.
CONTACT Ben van der Meer at firstname.lastname@example.org 749-4786.Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer.