The tug-of-war between county government and marijuana proponents continued to make headlines in Nevada County in 2011, and promises to heat up again early next year when a proposed cultivation ordinance goes before the Board of Supervisors.
Early in the year, local jurisdictions made it clear that dispensaries were not welcome here.
In January, Grass Valley City Council members voted down a proposed ordinance to allow and regulate dispensaries, instead joining 214 California cities that have banned them outright. Council members cited concern about the effects of marijuana use on young people and worries over crime associated with dispensaries in some areas, saying those who genuinely need marijuana for medical reasons can get it at the nearest dispensary in Colfax, about half an hour away in Placer County.
And in June, Nevada County OK’d a permanent ordinance prohibiting the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county. Nevada City already had enacted a permanent ban, in 2009.
A group of fed-up homeowners in Alta Sierra helped spark a push-back against the growing problem of large marijuana gardens in residential neighborhoods.
Many residents consider the grow next door far from innocuous, citing concerns over odor, traffic and the risk of robbery. And those concerns led to a move by Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal to draft a sample countywide ordinance, which drew a packed house to a November Board of Supervisors hearing.
Draft sets out restrictions on growing pot
The sample ordinance would limit marijuana gardens to six plants in residential zones and 25 plants in any other zone. Those limitations would apply to collectives or cooperatives as well.
The proposal places significant limitations on where grows can be located. Indoor and outdoor grows would not be allowed within 1,000 feet of any school, school bus stop, school evacuation site, church, park, child-care center or youth-oriented facility. Grows would not be allowed within 100 feet of a residence on a separate parcel owned by another person, or in a mobile home park within 100 feet of an occupied mobile home under separate ownership.
Outdoor grows could not be visible from a public right of way or publicly traveled private road, or within 50 feet of a legal parcel owned by someone else.
Other restrictions include noise, light and odor restrictions, as well as the building of a 6-foot opaque fence for outdoor gardens, and setbacks from property lines.
The owner or tenant must register with the Sheriff’s Office and provide proof of a current valid recommendation; if the parcel is rented, the owner must provide written consent to the grow. The Board of Supervisors could establish a fee for registration.
A zip-tie purchase provision is included in the language of the ordinance, but it is worded as an option “for the convenience of the property owner and to assist in the enforcement of this ordinance, and to avoid unnecessary confiscation and destruction,” rather than a requirement. The proposed ordinance also sets forth an abatement process for anyone not in compliance.
At the November hearing, a standing-room-only crowd seemed evenly divided in their opinions regarding the proposed ordinance.
Those in favor shared concerns with noise, traffic, crime and odor, as well as the harm to property values. Several growers and medical marijuana patients spoke, telling supervisors they obey the law and arguing the proposed ordinance would be unduly restrictive.
And some simply wanted local leaders to recognize what Nevada City Councilwoman Reinette Senum called the elephant in the room — the fact that illegal marijuana cultivation remains the economic backbone of the county.
Local cannabis activist Patricia Smith noted that cannabis is California’ No. 1 cash crop, and that Nevada County is second only to the Emerald Triangle in statewide cannabis production. Smith, who runs nonprofit patient advocacy group GrassRootsSolutions, had hoped to work to overturn the county ban on medical marijuana dispensaries. In the wake of the recent federal crackdown, Smith has adopted a wait-and-see tactic on the dispensary front. But she strenuously opposes any move by Nevada County to ban grows.