The Fremont City Council has banned all outdoor cultivation of medical marijuana in response to neighborhood complaints.
The council voted unanimously Feb. 18 to prohibit all outdoor growing, as well as cultivation inside residences if the plants can be seen from public places. The new policy was enacted after several residents complained their neighbors were growing large amounts of weed in and outside their homes.
“Some people have views of oceans from their homes,” resident Larry Wing told the council. “I have views of marijuana farms. Who wants to buy the house next to these people? Our property and quality of life is affected. . . . This isn’t a case of trying to restrict marijuana from a sick patient. We are talking about people converting entire properties into growing operations.”
Fremont currently has 16 known marijuana grow sites, including four where plants grow inside and out. In 2012 there were five and in 2011 just three. Police Chief Richard Lucero told the City Council the increase in grow sites led to more resident complaints of offensive odors and to more criminal activity.
In October, residents complained about a residence with outdoors marijuana plants, 10 to 12 feet high, that could be seen over the tops of homes. That prompted the city to draft the new ordinance.
That policy prohibits any outdoor grows. It also bars any indoor grow where the cannabis can be seen from a public place such as a sidewalk, or from a place where city enforcement officers are entitled to be.
California voters adopted medical weed in 1996, becoming the first state to do so. It has been a bumpy experience ever since, with state officials, local officials, federal officials and people in the pot industry mixing in a chaotic stew of conflicting motives, conflicting goals and conflicting interpretations of the law.
Pot is legal as medicine under state law, but it’s illegal for any purpose under federal law. Federal authorities have long targeted dispensaries and cultivators in the Golden State. They continue to do so, even though the Obama administration announced last year it would no longer interfere with states that legalize.
Many local officials are also intolerant of MMJ. Hundreds of local governments across the state have banned dispensaries, with the backing of a state Supreme Court ruling from last year.
Now municipalities are increasingly turning to cultivation bans as a way to fight what they see as a problem industry. Many of the bans, like Fremont’s, focus only on outdoor or indoor grows, but some, like the ban in Fresno County, outlaw all cultivation, indoors or out.