A group of local medical cannabis advocates is trying to gather 10,000 signatures to overturn a recent ordinance Shasta County supervisors passed that restricts marijuana growing for county residents.
Nor Cal Safe Access member Dave Shore said about 30 people have been gathering signatures outside medical marijuana dispensaries and less controversial local businesses like Walmart for about a week now.
While county supervisors passed two ordinances regulating medical marijuana earlier this month “” one banning dispensaries and one introducing cultivation restrictions for county residents “” the group is seeking a referendum only for the growth ordinance, Shore said.
The group is focusing on the growth ordinance because it’s more harmful, he said.
“We tried to put this together to help the general public,” Shore said.
The ordinance bans growing inside residences but allows it in detached accessory structures and sets limits for outdoor growing regardless of how many patients live at a residence.
The gardens have to meet minimum setbacks from parcel lines and adjacent residences.
The ordinance also sets a 1,000-foot no-grow zone between cultivation sites and sensitive areas, such as schools, school bus stops or churches.
The group needs 6,544 valid signatures to land the referendum on a special election ballot, said Cathy Darling Allen, Shasta County clerk and registrar of voters.
Shore said the group is shooting for 10,000 signatures to make sure enough of them are valid.
The growth ordinance narrowly passed with a 3-2 vote, with supervisors Les Baugh and Linda Hartman dissenting and essentially calling for stricter regulations.
But Shore said the group is seeking the referendum because the new regulations already are “critically flawed.”
“They sat there at the meeting, they went through them, they admitted there were tons of faults with their idea and just passed it anyway,” he said.
If the group gathers enough valid signatures by Jan. 13, 30 days from the date the ordinance passed, supervisors will have a choice of either retracting their approval or putting the issue on a special election ballot.
Supervisor Glenn Hawes said he won’t go back on his approval of the growth ordinance.
“I’m not changing my vote,” he said. “Let them try to do it if they want to try. That’s their right. But I’m not going to change my mind.”
Hawes said he’s not opposed to letting people use medical cannabis if they really need it, but there are too many dangerous commercial grows, especially in his rural District 3.
He said there were two large grows adjacent to schools in his district.
“That really upset me,” Hawes said. “They were asking to get punished when they plant it next to the
school. To me, they were just asking for it.”
But Shore said he thinks the new restrictions severely limit the population of the county that can legally grow.
“The 1,000-foot rule from things like school bus stops if you applied that to a community like Happy Valley, Round Mountain “” any actual community “” it wipes out the entire town,” he said.
Collecting enough valid signatures by Jan. 13 would grant at least a few months of relief for county growers.
Darling Allen said implementation of the new law would be postponed until the election takes place, which could be either in June or November.
Supervisors Leonard Moty and David Kehoe, who also voted for the law, did not return calls seeking comment on the referendum.
It’s been an unusually controversial year for Shasta County government, Darling Allen said.
While it’s not common to see a referendum come through her office, this one and a petition circulated earlier this year opposing a shopping center in Churn Creek Bottom have made the year something of an anomaly, she said.
“This is a pretty contentious year,” she said. “Folks are clearly interested in being engaged in the democratic process.”
The group will continue to gather signatures at local businesses and in neighborhoods, Shore said.