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Butte County Voters Will Decide Whether to Allow Pot Growing

Voters in Butte County will get a chance to decide Nov. 4 whether they want tight new restrictions on marijuana grows.

cannabis-plantsMeasure A, a proposal to limit cannabis cultivation, would cement in place new rules adopted by the county’s Board of Supervisors earlier this year. The regulations would limit outdoor grows to 150 square feet.

“Almost every day you see something in the paper about a marijuana problem,” said Butte County Supervisor Larry Wahl. “We have marijuana DUI’s, stabbings and crime and vagrancy downtown.”

At best, Wahl’s comments are mistaken. At worst, he’s intentionally misleading voters about the impact of weed on the county. The claim that people who smoke dope routinely stab other people is absolute bunk. And studies have repeatedly shown that access to pot doesn’t translate to increased crime.

But like over-zealous local officials across the state, the supervisors are determined to stamp out medical weed completely. Eric Berg, a lawyer in Chico who has represented hundreds of medical marijuana patients, said the county is arrogantly setting limits on how much pot patients can use. Only medical professionals should make that decision, Berg said.

Supervisors said they put Measure A on the ballot to restore rules they enacted earlier this year. They said the regulations would remove profit motives from MMJ, improve the environment, and lead to safer neighborhoods.

California marijuana operations are coming under increasing fire for their impact on the local environment. Large illegal farms have been blamed for aggravating the state’s epic drought.

Berg said he agrees big grows can be bad for the ecosystem. But Measure A also targets smaller gardens, he said, and that can have a negative effect on patients who need a large supply.

Local officials in Butte County and elsewhere have complained that patients have access to too much weed. But Berg said that’s exactly the point: Local officials aren’t qualified to make medical judgments.

Some patients need a near-constant supply of cannabis to ease their symptoms. But they often run up against skeptics who think it’s their place to limit how much a patient can use.

indoor grow marijuana plantMeasure A “would allow persons to grow a modest amount of marijuana for their medical use,” Wahl said.

But what Wahl defines as “modest” a patient or doctor might view as unreasonably small. There are patients, for example, who suffer from persistent chronic muscle spasms that can only be stopped using cannabis. It’s hardly surprising some of these people need more than a tiny garden could produce.

Along with Measure A, voters will decide Measure B, a competing proposal that would keep the law as it is.

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